Each year, Operation Smile hosts its International Student Leadership Conference (ISLC) at a different location around the world. This annual conference helps students develop and strengthen their leadership skills and character, provides training on how to help those in developing countries, as well as exposes them to different cultures.


Each year, Operation Smile hosts its International Student Leadership Conference (ISLC) at a different university around the world. This annual conference helps students develop and strengthen their leadership skills and character, provides training on how to help those in developing countries, as well as exposes them to different cultures.

2022 ISLC

Operation Smile Student Programs is excited to announce #ISLC2022 will be held at the University of Miami in Miami, Florida, USA! This year’s conference will be held from July 18-24, 2022. 

The application period has been extended and applications are now due by March 13, 2022. For details, read more about the conference below. 

If you have any questions about the upcoming conference, please email 

Each year, Operation Smile hosts its International Student Leadership Conference (ISLC) at a different university around the world. This annual conference helps high school students develop and strengthen their leadership skills and character, provides training on how to help those in developing countries, as well as exposes them to different cultures. Attendees will hear inspiring speakers share their insights on the topics of leadership, overcoming obstacles and what it means to make a difference; they’ll also meet like-minded people committed to making a difference in the lives of children with cleft lip and cleft palate.


We know you’ll get a lot out of the ISLC experience, but don’t just take our word for it! We put out a call on our Instagram story for reasons why everyone should come to ISLC, and here’s what our student volunteers said:

Passion: “Because you get to know so many people that share the same passion! You also grow so much, not only as a volunteer but as a person!” – Luis, Paraguay

Friendship: “I love attending ISLCs because I can meet people from all around the world, create amazing friendships, and get to meet incredible people.” – Brie, Bolivia

Cultural exchange: “Both years I’ve attended, my roommates were from Latin America. I loved learning about what teenagers do there, what their school is like and how they help Operation Smile.” – Reese, Kentucky, U.S.

Learning: “I got to meet so many student leaders and I obtained so many valuable lessons!” – Haram, New Jersey, U.S.

Why Operation Smile?

If you’re new to Operation Smile and curious how it can impact your life, check out this student-made video from our ISLC in Seattle.

What: #ISLC2022 

Who: High schoolers, including: rising freshmen, current freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors (classes 2022, 2023, 2024, 2025, 2026) 

When: July 18-24, 2022 

Where: University of Miami, Miami, Florida, USA 

Registration Fee: 

  • Student participants and Assistant Team Leaders:$1,000 USD  
  • Team Leaders: $600 
  • Adult chaperones:$750 USD 

The registration fee includes accommodation, meals, ground transportation to and from the airport and items associated with conference activities, but it does not include airfare to and from Miami or the cost to obtain a visa, if applicable. 

A non-refundable fee of $250 USD is due from all participants upon registration. Remaining payments will be requested and due by May 31, 2022, at the latest. Specifics about payments will be released to participants after acceptance. 

Students and chaperones can apply, via the form in the next tab. Applications are due March, 13, 2022. 

Once the deadline for application has ended, all applications will be sent to a review committee comprised of Operation Smile Student Programs staff. The review goes through several rounds and final decisions will be made by the end of March 2022. Those who are accepted will be emailed a registration link by the end of March. Invited participants will have 72 hours to register and secure their spot with a $250 USD non-refundable deposit. Those who do not receive an acceptance email will be placed on a wait list.  

It is imperative that the email used in the application is one that the participant has access to and checks frequently. Conference communication and updates will take place via email, so please monitor your inbox. 

Please read the FAQ section carefully prior to applying. 

The conference would not be possible without our student leaders! We invite you to apply for one of our student leadership positions to enhance your skills and guide your peers. 

Team Leader Requirements … 

  • Current Operation Smile club officer/board member 
  • Current high school senior (graduating class of 2022) 
  • Previous participant of a past ISLC 
  • Highly motivated, self-directed and a problem solver 
  • Detail-oriented and well-organized leader 
  • Multitasker with strong time-management skills 
  • Team player with a strong work ethic  
  • Good communicator with excellent oral, written and interpersonal skills 

Assistant Team Leader Requirements … 

  • Involved as an active Operation Smile club member at school for at least 1 year  
  • Current high school sophomore or and junior (graduating classes of 2023 and 2024) 
  • Previous participant of a past ISLC 
  • Highly motivated, self-directed and a problem solver 
  • Detail-oriented and well-organized leader 
  • Multitasker with strong time-management skills 
  • Team player with a strong work ethic  
  • Good communicator with excellent oral, written and interpersonal skills 

If you would like to apply for one of these student leadership roles, please select this in your application form and answer the associated questions for each role. 

Thank you for your interest in serving as an adult chaperone at our International Student Leadership Conference (ISLC) 2022!  

Operation Smile is committed to ensuring a safe and secure environment for our employees, volunteers, patients and stakeholders. To reduce the risk to all those involved with Operation Smile, we employ an application and screening process for medical and non-medical volunteers participating in our programs. Operation Smile uses GoodHire to retrieve background checks.  

Operation Smile is implementing a Screening Policy/Background Check for all adults involved with Student Programs. Even though chaperones/student sponsors may have been involved in the past, we will still include them in our rollout of background checks. All chaperones/sponsors will have to cover the cost of this process. 

The cost of attending ISLC 2022 as an adult chaperone is $750. Adult chaperones must be at least 26 years old and are also responsible for their own travel to and from the conference. 

This conference is a wonderful opportunity for both students and adults alike! 

ISLC is organized and run by Operation Smile Student Programs staff, as well as 20 to 30 student team leaders. The role of the adult chaperone is to support the staff and team leaders and ensure the participants have a safe and fun experience. Additionally, we expect chaperones to help maintain a positive, safe, orderly atmosphere for all the conference participants. To do so, we have established certain guidelines for the conference, which are outlined below. Keep in mind, Operation Smile attracts great students, but great students can sometimes make poor decisions.  

The Big 5: Zero Tolerance 

  1. Possession or consumption of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco 
  1. Theft 
  1. Co-habitation 
  1. Possession of weapons 
  1. Bodily injury to yourself or others 

Violation of any of the BIG 5 will result in immediate action and Student Programs staff will determine disciplinary action. 


Chaperones will help complete room checks immediately following our 10:30 p.m. curfew and report concerns to staff. This likely will mean chaperones will need to stay awake for a little bit longer to ensure all students are in their dorm room. All chaperones are required to stay on campus and in a dorm room for the duration of the conference. 


Each day we will hold a general meeting with adult participants to discuss the days’ events, duties, schedule changes and challenges. 


Chaperones must attend all speaker sessions and other activities. Hundreds of students attend the conference and, legally, we need one adult for every 10 participants at every event. 


You will be asked to help facilitate the Team Games and Challenges sessions. These duties will be explained further prior to the conference. 


Every student and chaperone are assigned to a team. Chaperones are encouraged to get to know their teams and embrace the collaborative spirit of the conference. As stated previously, chaperones expected to be visible and present, but the degree of participation in the team activities is up to each adult. 

Teams will gather at their designated spot each morning. Chaperones should help their team leader make sure all students are present. Any illnesses or problems should be reported to staff at that time. 

Approximately 25 students will be assigned to each chaperone. Try to see them each morning to hedge any problems (i.e., homesickness, loneliness, mobile-phone withdrawal etc.). 

We select adult chaperones based on several criteria. 

First, we like to have a balance of new ISLC adult chaperones and veteran ISLC adult chaperones. 

Second, we like our larger groups of international students to be accompanied by an adult chaperone from their country. 

Most importantly, we want to make sure that our adult chaperones are good role models for our students and capable of fulfilling their role as an adult chaperone. 

If you are selected, we will provide you with registration instructions and more details of the conference as it gets closer to time. Please let us know if you have any questions and thank you for your support of Operation Smile and Student Programs! 

Below are frequently asked questions regarding ISLC. If you have additional questions, please reach out to 

Q: What does the registration fee include? 

A: The registration fee includes accommodation, meals, ground transportation to and from Miami International airport and items associated with conference activities. Each participant will have a bed with linens. Some dietary restrictions can be accommodated; please note your dietary needs in the health form. However, if you have a strict diet, please reach out prior to applying. 

Q: Will participants have their own room? 

A: All participants, including chaperones, will share a room with one to two other participants. Operation Smile fosters a community of cultural exchange, so we create the rooming roster to allow for that experience. Roommate requests will not be honored. 

Q: What does arrival and departure to and from the conference look like? 

A: By submitting your travel information, we group arrivals and departures into blocks. We will have staff and student leaders at the airport to greet participants. Participants are then led to our privately hired buses to take them to campus. Prior to the conference, directions will be provided on where to meet at the airport.   

Q: If I have to book my own travel, how do I know if anyone else is on the same flight? 

A: During registration, there will be an option to share your information with other participants. If you choose yes, your contact information will be shared with others from your geographic area. It will be up to the participants and their families to communicate with the others to determine if you would like to be booked on the same flight. Operation Smile does not provide chaperoning of students from their home airport to Miami International Airport. 

Q: What is Unaccompanied Minor on a flight, and will I have to book my ticket with that? 

A: Unaccompanied Minor is a special feature on an airline ticket which is an additional cost for a child under a certain age to travel alone. Costs and age limitations are determined by the airline, so check with your specific airline. Some may force you to purchase this option to travel internationally if your child is under a certain age. This feature also requires an assigned guardian to physically drop off the minor at the gate and another assigned guardian to physically pick up the child at the arriving gate. 

Q: Will I need a passport? 

A: All non-USA participants will need a valid passport to enter the USA. The passport must be valid for six months after the expected return date. 

Q: Will I have to get a visa to enter the USA? 

A: If your country of residence requires a visa to enter the USA, it is your responsibility to secure it. We will ask for documentation of a valid passport and visa (if applicable) in the required forms packet for attendance. Visa invitations letters will be provided upon request to provide to your embassy and/or visa application. 

Q: How are applicants chosen? 

A: Unfortunately, the venue has a max capacity. In order to create a diverse experience, applicants will be chosen not only from their leadership experience but also their geographic location. Spots are very limited and we encourage you to put your best foot forward in your application. All applications will be reviewed by a committee against a rubric of standards and applications are reviewed against the global pool of applicants. 

Q: Is there a wait list if I do not get accepted? 

A: Yes, there will be a wait list. Invited participants have 72 hours (about 3 days) to register and if they do not, we will move down the wait list until we reach capacity. 

Q: What are the expectations regarding COVID-19? 

A: Due to the nature of the International Student Leadership Conference (ISLC) — which is a large, weeklong, co-living, and international gathering — and in consultation with our Global Medical Quality and Oversight teams, Student Programs has determined that all participants must be vaccinated to participate in this event. As a global medical organization serving children and families who are medically vulnerable, we are committed to maintaining a high standard of care for our students, families, and communities. According to the World Health Organization as well as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccination is the leading public health prevention and risk-mitigation strategy to protect individuals and communities from COVID-19. The CDC recommends that everyone 5 years and older receive all recommended COVID-19 vaccines, including any booster dose(s) when eligible. Additional measures in regard to our COVID protocol will also be in place to ensure the health and safety of our participants and guests, as well as the full enjoyment of the conference for all. We will have enhanced protocols, such as temperature checks, and medical professionals will be on staff to ensure the well-being and safety of our student leaders and chaperones.

Applications for ISLC 2022 have closed. If you are still interested in attending, please email and we will review your application on a one-off basis.

Conference details and next steps will be released to accepted ISLC 2022 participants in late March 2022.