What is the American Connections Program?
Millions of Americans go without broadband internet access—most of them in rural communities. The American Connection Project fosters long-term digital inclusion in support of vibrant and thriving rural communities.
Efforts include raising awareness about the critical nature of connectivity; advocating for meaningful policy reform and broadband investment; and, taking decisive action to provide connectivity options where they’re needed most.
Land O’Lakes, Inc. is convening organizations and leaders from across the country in this critical time to build strong rural communities positioned for competitiveness and connection now and in the future.
What is the American Connection Project?
Millions of Americans go without broadband internet access—most of them in rural and under-resourced communities. The American Connection Project (ACP) fosters long-term digital inclusion in support of vibrant and thriving communities. Efforts include raising awareness about the critical nature of connectivity; advocating for meaningful policy reform and broadband investment; and, taking decisive action to provide connectivity options where they’re needed most.
The American Connection Corps (ACC) is an initiative spearheaded by Land O’Lakes, Inc., Lead for America (LFA), Heartland Forward and other partner organizations in an effort coordinated by the American Connection Project. The ACP aims to foster long-term digital inclusion and take decisive action to provide connectivity options in rural and urban communities.
American Connection Corps
Areas of Impact
American Connection Corps Fellows will be supporting broadband efforts across 12 states in 2021. Fellows and their hosts must be located in one of the following states to participate.
Lead For America (LFA) and the American Connection Project (ACP) are teaming up to mobilize leaders to return to their hometowns to coordinate broadband development & digital inclusion locally, and across the country. The American Connection Corps (ACC) will be the nation's largest fellowship program focused on bridging the digital divide. Fifty American Connection Corps Fellows will serve in select states in a two-year pilot initiative. 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 homecomers nationwide. Host communities will be featured in national news outlets and will help inform the work of the American Connection Project Policy Coalition.
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. 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.
For some Fellows, their project scopes will be coordinating local partners to access federal and state resources for broadband access. In others, it means delivering digital literacy to those most marginalized. Through the multiplier effect, Fellows will capture compelling local stories, and connect their peers to newly identified opportunities. Fellows will be mentored to develop a community venture, which could be starting a business, nonprofit, or community group that addresses local needs and fulfills their individual passions.
Life As A Fellow
Fellows at Catalyst Institute
"Being a Fellow has helped me become more creative in approaching and addressing the issues my community faces. I've been able to establish networks of support and avenues of collaboration. What could have been a frustrating and lonely journey has been exciting and empowering."
— Shandiin Herrera, 2019 LFA Fellow
Grow: Catalyst Institute
Attend national and statewide retreats to learn from world class leaders, deepen your leadership potential, and build meaningful community with other change-makers across the country.
Serve: Project Scope
Work side-by-side with local leaders to bridge the digital divide by helping communities access federal and state resources, deliver digital literacy to under-resourced communities, and boost broadband access across the nation.
Create: Community Venture
Receive mentorship to start your own business, nonprofit, or community group to address the local needs and continue your passion.
Cultivate: Learning + Support
Strengthen your leadership and knowledge through retreats, ongoing training, advisors, and alumni opportunities.
Catalyze: Multiplier Effect
Recruit other leaders to support your community to build the next generation of leaders and strengthen your community's capacity for change.
Click on each phase for more info.
May 15, 2021
Applicants submit a 3-5 minute personal narrative video expressing their connection to the community and the project scope.
Interview with our team.
Interview + match with your host.
Host A Fellow
Welcome Diverse, Trained Talent
Fellows possess extraordinary integrity, drive, and commitment to public service. Each has access to a variety of mentors, trainings and conferences. Fellows receive a world-class training in public administration from faculty at the University of Minnesota, UNC Chapel Hill, Purdue University, Tufts, Harvard, and other top schools, helping bolster their ability to contribute.
Bring Capacity to Digital Inclusion Efforts
Our training is designed to make our Fellows real contributors in your organization from the start, and bring that needed capacity to make sure your community is ready to apply for and receive federal and state broadband grant funds, support accurate household speed mapping data, spearhead and facilitate community task forces, provide digital literacy education to marginalized communities, communicate to legislators, and design and deliver digital skilling programs (i.e. K-12 and adult education coding bootcamps, digitizing Main Street businesses, supporting tele-health and agri-tech initiatives, etc.).
Make a Long-Term Investment
Fellows are encouraged to work with partners in the community, including public institutions, small businesses and community-based nonprofits for four of the next seven years. Some will also be helping mentor, teach, or otherwise engage other local leaders. For outstanding host organizations that cannot pay for the initial full cost of the Fellow's scholarship, we may be able to work with your organization to raise funds through community philanthropies.
Connect With Civically-Minded Organizations
We believe it is important that we connect our host institutions and organizational partners to one another. As such, all hosts are invited to join our online community of forward-thinking community organizations. All hosts will also benefit from the resources of our university partners.
Interested in Hosting?
American Connection Corps FAQs
Do I need to have experience with broadband to become a Fellow?
No! You don’t have to be a broadband expert to be a great Fellow—all kinds of skills can translate to success in your placement as long as you’re ready to work hard, exercise humility, and learn on the go.
How many Fellows do you plan to accept?
The American Connection Corps plans to support 50 Fellows across 12 states in 2021.
Can international residents apply?
Unfortunately, due to the hiring restrictions of many of our community partners, Lead for America may only accept U.S. citizens, nationals, or legal permanent residents for admission into the Fellowship. DACA recipients are eligible for the fellowship.
Can I apply to be a Fellow if I already have a graduate degree or am in the middle of a graduate program?
Yes. Folks who have earned or are in the process of earning graduate degrees may apply for the Fellowship so long as they earned their bachelor’s degree no earlier than 2011 and are legally authorized to work in the US. Applicants who are in the middle of a graduate degree program must be prepared to take a two-year sabbatical from their graduate studies to participate in Lead for America. Please note: the compensation package is the same for all Fellows in a given city, regardless of whether or not they earned a graduate degree before beginning their Fellowship term.
When will I be notified if I was selected as a finalist?
Can I apply to serve in a community I did not grow up in?
Yes! Applicants for the American Connection Corps must have a strong connection to one of the below states. A strong connection could be: (a) where you were born and/or raised, (b) where your family resides, (c) where you went to, or currently attend, college, (d) somewhere you lived in the past, or (e) a place you are committed to make your home long term.
Can I still apply if I am over the age of 30?
While typically our Fellows are between the ages of 21-30, this is a recommended age range, as instead of feeling the need to stick to firm boundaries, we rather are simply looking for dynamic and passionate leaders who want to inject energy into and give back to communities where they already have strong ties. If this program sounds like a good fit for you and you are over the age of 30, feel free to apply, and you will have the opportunity during the selection process to share why you think you would still be an outstanding Fellow.
I have lived in many different places. Where should I apply to serve?
We completely understand that you have many places you have strong personal connections to. For us, we most want to support you in returning to a place that feels most like home to you, and where you see yourself serving in the long term. Essentially, we would advise you to apply to serve the place where you believe you have the strongest personal tie and could make the biggest impact!
How do I know you received my application?
If you received the confirmation email, then we received your application. If you did not receive a confirmation email in your inbox or in your spam folder within 24 hours of submission, then email email@example.com letting us know.
How does the American Connection Corps Fellowship differ from other Fellowships?
The American Connection Corps will be the nation's largest fellowship program focused on digital inclusion. 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 homecomers nationwide. Host communities will be featured in national news outlets, and will help inform the work of the American Connection Project Coalition.
What is the duration of the Fellowship?
The Fellowship service term is two years. We expect that every Fellow also commit to spending four out of the next seven years in their region, two of which are through the Fellowship and the other two are through opportunities co-created by the Host Site and community, Lead For America, and the Fellow.
How does LFA select what organizations to partner with?
Will I be working with other Fellows in my placement?
A majority of Fellows work in communities without other Fellows. However, some communities will have more than once ACC Fellow, in which meetups and collaboration will be encouraged. It is possible that some ACC Fellows will be in the same communities, or closeby to other LFA Fellows who they can connect with.
Can I have other employment during the fellowship?
Because the fellowship experience is very intensive and we hope that Fellows can focus as much of their time as possible on impacting their communities, Fellows are generally discouraged from holding simultaneous employment. The living scholarship, housing scholarship, and other Fellowship benefits are calibrated to cover all living costs during the Fellowship experience, and additional financial scholarships are also available in exceptional circumstances. However, we understand that each individual's context is unique, and we are open to making exceptions to this policy when needed to support the full nourishment and well-being of the Fellow.
Can I attend school during the fellowship?
Fellows may decide to complete additional certification programs or courses through one of our academic or strategic partners, or through other programs of their choosing. This may include working towards an online or part-time MPA program or any number of weekend part-time training courses. That being said, Fellows are expected to consult both their host government and LFA before making this decision.
Does the Lead For America Fellowship program qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
Lead For America Fellows who participate in one of Lead For America’s AmeriCorps programs qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. To date, that has only included the Lead For Minnesota program, but starting with the 2020/2021 cohort, each of Lead For America’s other programs are also applying for AmeriCorps grants, which if received, would qualify new Fellows for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program as well. Lead For America will receive a decision on all AmeriCorps grants by May 2021.
What is life like after the fellowship?
In order to cultivate transformational community leaders in the long term, Lead For America believes that making a deep, sustained investment in the development of our alumni will reap exponential change for our leaders, their communities, and society more broadly. Beyond building a burgeoning alumni community that includes graduate scholarships (including to Carnegie Mellon's Heinz School of Public Policy, McCourt School at Georgetown University, Fels Institute at University of Pennsylvania, Ford School at University of Michigan), professional development trainings, systematized network building and job advocacy, regional alumni chapters, and national alumni interest groups, we also plan to provide an average of at least $5,000 to all new alumni to catalyze public service work (e.g. starting a local business or non-profit, leading a community initiative, running for local office, etc.). Alumni, like Fellows, are also encouraged to participate in the strategic decision-making of Lead For America, both within regional affiliates and at the national level.
When and how will I be matched with my host community?
During the application process, we will ask you to indicate which state(s) you would like to serve in, and ask you to share your connection to the state in your application form. If selected as an Endorsed Finalist, LFA will set up a match interview with you and a site partner in the state to which you applied, taking in further geographic preference, connection, and overall fit to the host site culture. You will receive the full project scope for that specific host site ahead of your interview.
What does the application process entail?
What are the qualities of an ideal candidate?
What benefits do Fellows receive? How much do they get paid?