Land O’Lakes Inc., a cooperative based in Arden Hills, Minn., announced the formation of a new program for young leaders aimed at a boots-on-the-ground effort to boost local internet connectivity and the benefits it provides. The program, the American Connection Corps, will be led in conjunction with Lead for America (LFA) and funded through the support of Heartland Forward and 19 additional partner organizations.
Applications open April 26 for a two-year full-time paid fellowship. Fifty fellows will serve in local public-serving institutions in their hometowns and will be empowered to serve as community leaders focused specifically on connectivity, the company said.
“Millions of families are operating day to day with a lack of basic infrastructure — adequate broadband access — that has become a necessity in today’s world and, frankly, a fundamental right. Action cannot wait,” said Beth Ford, Land O’Lakes Inc. president and CEO. “Through our years-long work on broadband advocacy and conversations with our farmers, our customers and so many others, we’ve seen and heard firsthand how critical digital infrastructure is to the success of communities and businesses across America. From everyday life to prospering in a global economy, investing and focusing on this issue now will pay dividends.”
Through their proven Homecomers model, LFA will run the American Connection Corps as a separate track under their broad Fellows program. LFA will select, train and place leaders in two-year, full-time paid fellowships with local institutions (e.g., local governments, nonprofits and community foundations) to tackle tough challenges facing the community, strengthen their hometown's civic infrastructure and join a new generation of transformational community leaders, Land O’Lakes Inc. said.
"Our work has shown that we can change the narrative that success means leaving home for good, and instead that young leaders can create meaningful impact in their hometowns," commented Benya Kraus, co-founder of LFA.
The American Connection Corps is launching with funding from 20 partner organizations, including 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, Land O’Lakes said.
"We are excited to put true grassroots — person-to-person outreach — in communities across the heartland to connect their residents to high-speed internet and ensure everyone can enjoy full access to essential online services,” said Angie Cooper, chief program officer for Heartland Forward, a leading partner on the American Connection Corps initiative.
Ford added: “This program would not be happening without the support of organizations joining with us; I’m so grateful to these partners who also recognize that together, we can take bold steps now to help solve these challenges, to help create the future and to benefit us all in our ever-connected world.”
Individuals interested in applying for the program are encouraged to visit Lead for America’s website and select the American Connection Corps track. The deadline to apply is May 15, 2021. The inaugural class of fellows will be announced in early June 2021.