SPEARVILLE, KAN., (JULY 19, 2021) – Lead For America and Land O’Lakes, Inc. today announced the placement of three American Connection Corps (ACC) Fellows in Kansas. These fellows will work to increase broadband access and digital literacy as well as contribute to critical community development initiatives in Wabaunsee County and Wichita.
The American Connection Corps is a new, innovative fellowship program focused on bridging the digital divide, led by Land O’Lakes and Lead For America (LFA). As part of the national network, ACC Fellows will have access to premiere national training on community organizing, broadband and digital inclusion, and a network of LFA leaders nationwide. Over the course of the application window, the program received hundreds of applications from emerging leaders across the country. After an extensive interview process, the Fellows program has selected 50 individuals to serve as community leaders across the country.
"Lead For America is on a mission to build a generation of civic leaders dedicated to tackling the toughest challenges facing the communities they call home—particularly in places like my own home state of Kansas where young people often leave and never return,” said Joe Nail, CEO and co-founder of Lead For America. “The coronavirus pandemic underscored the importance both of local leadership, and of closing the digital divide in rural and urban communities across America. We are honored to partner with Land O’Lakes and the other American Connection Corps partners in placing 50 dynamic, and locally rooted leaders in their hometowns and home states this year, and to ensuring this initiative becomes a nationwide model for national and community service for many years to come."
“When it comes to expanding broadband, we all know that public-private partnerships are key --- especially in our rural areas,” Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said. “The American Connection Corps program is a perfect example of how we can leverage these partnerships to boost connectivity and uplift all communities. I want to thank Land O’Lakes and Lead For America for their commitment to expanding access to quality, affordable high-speed internet across our state, and partnering with my administration to achieve our aggressive goals for broadband infrastructure improvements in Kansas.”
“Land O’Lakes, alongside so many great partners, is thrilled to support these leaders as they get started connecting their communities here in Kansas,” said Beth Ford, Land O’Lakes, Inc. president and CEO. “Connectivity affects all communities ability to complete in the global marketplace and improve the prosperity of the people that live in them. We see this program growing significantly and working in concert with legislators at both the state and federal levels. We’re excited to see the progress these Fellows will drive as we continue to advocate for the needed investment in broadband infrastructure.”
“As I’ve traveled across the state of Kansas, one of the biggest concerns I’ve heard from families and communities alike is access to a reliable and affordable internet connection,” said U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan. “Continued broadband deployment, especially in rural Kansas, is vital to our state’s continued economic growth and long-term prosperity. And while the federal government has numerous programs aimed at closing the digital divide, navigating those programs or even knowing where to begin can often be a challenge for small, rural communities. Connecting every home, business and farm will truly take an all-of-the-above approach and I applaud the efforts Land O’Lakes and its partners are dedicating to helping close the digital divide.”
“Broadband deployment is a critical issue facing our rural communities, and I am pleased that this partnership will work to make broadband more accessible in states like Kansas,” said U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan. “By improving rural internet capabilities, we are supporting businesses, tele-health and tele-education for people across rural America.”
ACC Fellows will serve their home communities in locations nationwide through high-impact, high-urgency two-year placements focused on closing the digital divide and building the next generation of leaders. In partnership with local institutions listed below, the three ACC Fellows will tackle tough challenges facing Kansas, strengthen its civic infrastructure and join a new generation of transformational community leaders. Fellows will also participate in LFA's national Changemaker Summit, attend quarterly retreats, receive 1:1 expert mentorship, and join a growing community of local leaders.
The following organizations will host Fellows in their communities:
- Amalia Murguia: Office of Economic Development for Wabaunsee County Government
- Amalia, under the direction of the Office of Economic Development – and in partnership with residents, small businesses, educators, and local internet providers – will assess broadband needs and shortfalls, identify potential resources and programs to fill gaps, and develop initiatives to improve digital literacy. The focus will include how Wabaunsee County – its residents, small businesses, and schools turns broadband access and adoption from a relative disadvantage to competitive advantage.
- Jose Trejo: Empower Evergreen, Wichita, Kansas
- Through Empower Evergreen, a newly formed non-profit organization focused on the holistic development of Wichita's predominantly Hispanic community, Jose will work directly alongside Executive Director to help streamline work productivity for Hispanic owned business owners by using broadband as well as identify ways to increase access to technology for education and workforce purposes for Hispanic children and families.
- Christianna Mershon: Newman University, Wichita, Kansas
- Through Newman University's Division of Student Affairs, Christianna will use some of her time researching, implementing and executing strategies focused on ways digital broadband can increase campus and community involvement; thus leading to higher retention rates of students. Additionally, Christianna will identify barriers that limit access to the internet for students with a special focus on students from rural communities.
The American Connection Corps is led in conjunction
with Lead For America and funded through the support of 20 additional partner organizations, including: Land O’Lakes, Heartland Forward, CoBank, Tractor Supply Company, Microsoft, Mayo Clinic, Ariel Investments, Scoular, CHS, Zoetis, Tillamook County Creamery Association, Accenture, University of Minnesota, the American Farm Bureau Federation, Midwest Dairy, Purdue University, Partners for Education, CentraCare, Common Sense Media and University of Illinois Extension.
For general information on the ACC, please visit: https://www.lead4america.org/american-connection-corps