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Serving: MN

6 ACC Fellows to broaden internet connectivity in rural Minnesota

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American Connection Corps Fellows will work for two years in communities in the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Redwood and Ottertail counties and other sites.

Lead For America, Land O’Lakes Inc., the Mayo Clinic, Midwest Dairy and Scoular announced the recent placement of six American Connection Corps fellows in Minnesota.

The fellows will work to increase broadband access and digital literacy, as well as contribute to community development initiatives in communities across Minnesota.

The American Connection Corps is a new fellowship program focused on bridging the digital divide. It is led by Land O’Lakes and Lead For America (LFA), and funded through the support of 20 additional partners. Hundreds of applications were received from emerging leaders for the fellowship program from across the U.S. After an extensive interview process, the fellows program has selected a total of 50 individuals to serve as community leaders.

“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 Minnesota, from Redwood to Roseau counties, as a part of this first class of ACC Fellows,” says Benya Kraus, co-founder of Lead For America and executive director of the state-based program Lead For Minnesota. “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 Minnesotans for many years to come.”

Tina May, Land O’Lakes vice president for rural services, encouraged leaders at every level to be engaged in bridging the access gap to critical digital infrastructure and leveraging economic opportunities in every rural community.

“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,” May says.

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, here are the six Minnesota ACC Fellows:

James Clark (Ozaawaanakwad in Ojibwe): Aanjibimaadizing, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe community. Clark will help ensure that digital equity is woven across the Mille Lacs Band language revitalization efforts, which includes ensuring that elders have access to and understand how to use technology tools, and that youth have access to devices and hubs for internet access to attend online language trainings. He will work with the Mille Lacs Band tribal leadership to understand broadband infrastructure gaps, and get connected to opportunities for funding and technical assistance.

Patrick Garry, Redwood County Economic Development Authority, Redwood County. Garry will develop a broadband needs assessment for the county, focused on capturing quantitative and qualitative data demonstrating the importance of broadband connection for Redwood County. Additionally, he will help establish a map outlining the existing fiber connections, provider areas, expansion opportunities and gaps, while also generating comprehensive public awareness and excitement among county residents to advocate for broadband investment to the county.

Carter Grupp: Department of Economic Development, Otter Tail County. Grupp will assist in the advancement of Otter Tail County’s broadband efforts, including furthering the specific projects initiated by the county’s current participation in the Blandin Broadband Community Program.

Amber Lewis, Northspan, East Iron Range. Lewis will support Northspan’s Arrowhead Intelligence Region grant implementation efforts, as well as the development of the region’s welcoming strategy to attract and retain new members to the community. Core to this welcoming strategy will be an assessment of digital access gaps and their intersections with income, education and racial inequities across the region.

Matthew Sauser, Warroad Community Development LLC, Warroad. Sauser will be the point facilitator of the Warroad area’s broadband development steering committee, working closely with the city of Warroad, local area providers and Warroad Community Development. He will develop and implement a rural organizing strategy to mobilize residents, private-sector leaders and publicly elected officials to prioritize broadband infrastructure investment in funding decisions. He will also support household speed-mapping initiatives and help develop a communications strategy to align private and public investment.

Alex Young-Williams, Project 1590, Fairmont. Young-Williams will work with Martin County leadership to find access gaps around broadband infrastructure and adoption across the region and different community populations. Young-Williams will help develop a digital navigator program, connecting county leadership to funding opportunities for infrastructure development and broadband adoption initiatives. At the same time he will work to increase public engagement around the importance of these efforts, showcasing the intersection between broadband connectivity and business growth, talent attraction and agriculture.

The ACC 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 Co., Microsoft, Mayo Clinic, Ariel Investments, Scoular, CHS, Zoetis, Tillamook County Creamery Association, Accenture, the University of Minnesota, the American Farm Bureau Federation, Midwest Dairy, Purdue University, Partners for Education, CentraCare, Common Sense Media and the University of Illinois Extension.

For general information on the ACC, visit

Lead for America 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 underresourced communities. Through its flagship two-year paid Fellows Program, LFA has funded and placed more than 100 Fellows, in more than 80 communities and 30 states in newly created positions in their home communities, since 2019. It plans to have 100 additional Fellows starting in 2021. Combined, LFA Fellows have leveraged more than $17 million for their communities and affected the lives of more than 13.5 million people. LFA is headquartered in Dodge City, Kan.

Source: Land O’ Lakes, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all of its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.



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