KaRa Lyn Thompson + Esther Garcia, Extension Fellows '19

Host A



The heart and soul of our program

... are public-serving institutions like yours. Whether you're a local or tribal government, a non-profit, or a business working to strengthen communities through robust collaboration with public institutions, we know that you are working hard every day to provide essential services to your community. But we also know this is a time in which our cities and towns are rife with polarization, are confronting massive challenges, and are facing a dwindling bench of leaders. 

We can help. Our Fellows see public service as a calling. Through their Fellowship they 1) work full-time in their hosting institution to tackle tough community challenges, 2) recruit other leaders to the region to strengthen the civic ecosystem, and 3) continue to support the community after the end of their paid fellowship term. Hosting a Fellow is a sound investment for your organization in the immediacy, but it's also a bet on the future of your community and our country. We hope you'll join us.

Scott Erbisch

"Our Fellow provides rational descriptions to the impacts and proposes potential solutions for discussion. He represents new and creative thinking and brings an intellect that is critical for the future."

— Scott Erbisch,
Marquette County Administrator

"With the ability to take a creative and unique approach to issues in this area, our Fellow possesses skills to make an impact."

— Michelle Akers, Southwestern Regional Day Report Center, Boone County, WV

Why Host?

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 UNC Chapel Hill, Harvard, Tufts, Georgetown, BU and other top schools, helping bolster their ability to contribute.


Address Immediate Workforce Challenges
Our training is designed to make our Fellows real contributors in your organization from the start. You should challenge the Fellows to tackle significant, tough problems.​ For outstanding host organizations that cannot pay for the full cost of the Fellow's scholarship, we may be able to work with your organization to raise funds through community philanthropies.

Make a Long-Term Investment 
Fellows are encouraged to work with partners in the community, including public institutions, small businesses and community-based non-profits for four of the next seven years. Some will also be helping mentor, teach, or otherwise engage high school students. ​Fellows are selected for their demonstrated commitment to the community or region. 

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. 


What We Look For

In Hosts

Challenging + Engaging Work

Fellows are dynamic, industrious and well-trained. We want to see proposals for interesting work and projects that would really move the needle for your community. The work must be directly related to strengthening and supporting civic institutions in your community.


Featured Hosts 

Click name to see project scope


Oljato Chapter Navajo Nations 

Monument Valley, UT

Executive Director,

Developmental Disabilities Council

Washington, DC

Senior Planner,

Atlanta Regional Commission

Atlanta, GA

Christian Clegg

Deputy City Manager,

City of Stockton 

Stockton, CA

— Christian Clegg, Deputy City Manager Stockton, CA

“We’ve had an outstanding experience with our Fellow. Due to LFA’s rigorous vetting and training components, our Fellow is a very capable individual with a serious commitment to public service. They are delivering work beyond our expectations with a thoughtful approach to assignments coupled by meaningful work experience. This not only makes for a valuable professional opportunity for the Fellow, but also very intentional and quality work for the City.”

Interested in Hosting?

Frequently asked questions

How do you choose host organizations for the Hometown Fellowship?

Lead For America is actively recruiting host organizations for 2021 who are excited to host a Fellow in their community. We prioritize local governments, tribal governments, community non-profits, and local businesses that play a critical role in strengthening their public institutions. First, we confirm placements with host organizations in communities nationwide. Ideal host organizations are key community changemakers and can articulate how they'll engage a Fellow in their community revitalization work. Then, we accept applications from outstanding civic-minded leaders who call one of the communities in the confirmed pool home. While we seek to confirm most placements ahead of accepting Fellows, we do reserve a few slots for Fellow-proposed placements in communities outside of our confirmed pool. Lead For America then connects Hometown Fellow Endorsed Finalists with their proposed host communities in order for both sides to learn if the partnership will be a good match for them. Lead For America will select Hometown Fellows and host organizations based off of the demonstration of need for a Fellow to serve within the proposed community, the degree to which the proposed community could generally benefit from an influx of leaders, the fit between the candidate's skill-set/background and the community, and the strength of the connection between the candidate and the community.

How do you choose host organizations for the Lead For North Carolina and Lead For Minnesota fellowships?

Lead For North Carolina and Lead For Minnesota work closely with state-based local government associations, nonprofit leaders, and academic experts to identify community organizations that have the potential to be excellent Fellow hosts. Then, the LFNC and LFMN teams finalize host organization selection by evaluating through the lens of two central questions: how much of an impact would a Fellow make in the proposed role, and how much would the Fellow grow as a transformational civic leader in the proposed role? Host organizations are expected to show that they will create a dynamic, innovative, and highly important role for the Fellow, while also providing a supportive environment of active mentorship, community engagement, and intellectual cultivation.

How much does the program cost?

The full cost of the fellowship is the amount that is provided for the Fellow via their scholarship, plus an additional $17k/year to cover LFA's training and support costs. This ends up totaling roughly $39k/year on average (which varies based on cost of living), but because LFA administers the financial and administrative end, the host doesn't have to bear the burden of any HR or fringe costs. Essentially, we work to assure that the cost of the program is less than the cost of an entry level employee to make it affordable for our hosts. All this being said, in rare circumstances we work with hosts that aren't able to cover the full cost of the program. If that's the case, we may work with the host to identify joint placements or work with them to identify other sources of funding from the community to cover the full cost.

Who employs the Fellows?

For all legal purposes, the Fellow is not an employee or a contractor of Lead for America nor of the host organization. The Fellow is paid via scholarships from LFA per the rules of the IRS Fellowship classification due to the educational purpose of the program. Simply, host organizations provide financial contributions to LFA, and LFA provides the scholarship funds directly to the Fellows.

What is the time frame of the Fellowship?

2020 Fellows will begin in their placements in August of 2020 and serve for two years through July 2022. Most, if not all, hosts for the 2020 cycle will be confirmed by April 2020.

What level of responsibility can Fellows take on?

As a 2019 host in Decatur shared, "[Our Fellow] has been working on everything we initially asked for and way more." We encourage you to think of your Fellow as essentially adding another member to your team. In our experience, the most successful and dynamic placements (for both hosts and Fellows) are placements where Fellows are taking on a distinct project, be it the Arts and Culture Strategic Plan of Arcata, the Transportation Strategic Plan for Detroit, the economic redevelopment strategy of Housatonic etc. In each of these cases, Fellows are getting strategic input from colleagues, and are working closely with their supervisors, but are the primary point of contact for the project.

What type of supervision does a Fellow need?

Our Fellows are entrepreneurial self-starters, and with appropriate onboarding structures they can be extremely autonomous. While the level of supervision depends on both the nature of the project and the relationship between Fellow and supervisor, we’ve learned from our hosts that Fellows can really run with projects tasked to them. It is necessary to invest time in a full onboarding process to ensure alignment with your organization's vision and strategy, as well as to introduce and align your Fellow with other colleagues on the team. We also recommend scheduling frequent one-on-one check ins between Fellows and hosts to ensure continued alignment and an open flow of communication.

What is it like to host?

It's like adding a member to your team! One host said: “Our Fellow has allowed us to work on projects that have been on our list for years, but for which we never had sufficient capacity. They are taking it and running with it!” Many hosts have said that their Fellows operate at the level of a graduate student and can take on real responsibility. We encourage hosts to really think about this fellowship as an opportunity to add capacity to your work through an additional staff member.