Lead For America, Land O'Lakes Place Three American Connection Corps Fellows in Georgia
Three Fellows will undertake transformational projects related to broadband connectivity and digital inclusion in Georgia
Atlanta, GA (July 26, 2021) – Lead for America and Land O’Lakes today announced the placement of three American Connection Corps (ACC) Fellows in Georgia. These fellows will work to increase broadband access and digital literacy and contribute to critical community development initiatives in Atlanta and Milledgeville. 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 a total of 50 Fellows to serve as community leaders across the country.
The American Connection Corps is a new, innovative fellowship program focused on bridging the digital divide, led by Land O’Lakes, Inc. 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.
“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—and we are excited to bring our Hometown Fellowship model to Atlanta and Milledgeville as a part of this first class of ACC Fellows” said Joe Nail, CEO and co-founder of Lead For America. “The coronavirus pandemic underscored the importance of both 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 many other American Connection Corps partners in placing 50 dynamic, and locally rooted leaders in the communities and places that helped raise them. We are committed to ensuring this initiative becomes a pathway home for outstanding Georgians for many years to come.”
“I firmly believe there is a role for leaders at every level to be actively engaged in bridging the access gap to critical digital infrastructure and leveraging economic opportunities for the very communities they grew up in,” said Tina May, Land O’Lakes, Inc. vice president for Rural Services. “And, this is just the beginning – it is our intention that this program will both grow to make an immediate and significant impact and also prove to legislators at the state and federal level that there is a scalable, successful model for community development, which can ensure all Americans have access to this fundamental infrastructure.”
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. They will tackle tough challenges facing Georgia, 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 inaugural ACC fellows and their hosts in Georgia are:
Atlanta Regional Commission: Aging and Independent Services
Arin Yost: Arin graduated with a Bachelor’s from Agnes Scott College. Prior to the Fellowship, Arin worked with refugee resettlement agencies and other advocacy nonprofit organizations. At the ARC, they will be identifying and addressing inequities that create disparities in life expectancy in order to improve the quality of life and length of life for all who live in the Atlanta region. Arin will also help address the role that digital equity and access can play in essential health and social services.
Atlanta Regional Commission: Research and Analytics Group
Kendyl Lewis: Kendyl Lewis is from Cumming, Georgia and graduated from Georgia College with degrees in Economics and Psychology. She is passionate about food security, and she established a hunger-fighting organization, a campus food pantry, and a meal assistance scholarship during her time at Georgia College. Kendyl will help implement a planning and communication framework centered around community engagement, storytelling, local government, and broadband access designed to address the inequities that create disparities in the Atlanta community.
Rural Studies Institute
Loren Walter: Loren graduated with a bachelor's degree from Agnes Scott College, where she served as an IGNITE National Atlanta Fellow helping mentor young women to become more civically engaged. Prior to the fellowship, Loren served as a legislative aide to Georgia State Representative Regina Lewis-Ward. As the Broadband Initiative Project Manager at the Rural Studies Institute, she will develop a Georgia Black Belt Region Broadband Initiative and lead an outreach and education campaign for the region on the importance of building a broadband infrastructure for the region’s development.
“The Atlanta Regional Commission recognizes the importance of expanding digital inclusion throughout our region,” said Mary Blumberg, Manager of Strategic Planning and Development Unit, Aging and Independence Services at ARC. “The partnership with American Connection Corps will help increase digital connectivity for older adults, providing greater access to telemedicine while alleviating loneliness and isolation. We are thrilled to have Arin join our team as a Fellow helping to discover innovative digital inclusivity solutions to the Atlanta region.”
“Neighborhood Nexus, operating out of ARC’s Research and Analytics Group, are thrilled that Kendyl is joining our community impact team’s effort to leverage data and actionable insights to advance equity in the region,” said Tommy Pearce, Executive Director of Neighborhood Nexus. “Digital inclusion is essential to ensuring access to education, jobs and job training, health and mental health services. Kendyl will help us play a role in addressing this complex and systemic issue.”
"The RSI is very enthusiastic about building the capacity of rural communities within the Southern region and we are equally thrilled to partner with the American Connection Corps to assist in the development," said Rural Studies Institute (RSI) Executive Director Veronica L. Womack. "It is so wonderful to have Loren join our team as a Fellow to help advance digital equity in Georgia."
The American Connection Corps is led in conjunction with Lead for America (LFA) 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, 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
Lead for America: Matthew Miller
Land O’Lakes, Inc.: Abbey Shilling
About Lead for America
Lead For America (LFA) is a national nonprofit that helps outstanding young people become civic leaders. LFA seeks to direct homegrown talent where it’s needed most — in towns and counties where challenges outpace resources available — often in rural and under-resourced communities. Through their flagship two-year paid Fellows program, LFA has funded and placed over 100 Fellows in over 80 communities and 30 states in newly created positions in their home communities since 2019, and plan to have 100 additional Fellows starting in 2021. Combined, LFA Fellows have leveraged more than $17 million for their communities and impacted the lives of more than 13.5 million people. Lead For America's national headquarters is located in Dodge City, Kansas.
About Land O'Lakes, Inc.
Land O'Lakes, Inc., one of America's premier agribusiness and food companies, is a member-owned cooperative with industry-leading operations that span the spectrum from agricultural production to consumer foods. With 2020 annual sales of $14 billion, Land O'Lakes is one of the nation's largest cooperatives, ranking 219 on the Fortune 500. Building on a legacy of more than 99 years of operation, Land O'Lakes today operates some of the most respected brands in agribusiness and food production including Land O’Lakes Dairy Foods, Purina Animal Nutrition, WinField United and Truterra. The company does business in all 50 states and more than 60 countries. Land O'Lakes, Inc. corporate headquarters are located in Arden Hills, Minnesota.