Lead For America, Heartland Forward Place Two American Connection Corps Fellows in Ohio


Working with the Buckeye Hills Regional Council and Rural LISC, two fellows will undertake transformational projects related to broadband connectivity and digital inclusion in Ohio

– Lead for America (LFA) and Heartland Forward today announced the placement of two American Connection Corps (ACC) Fellows in Ohio to work with the Buckeye Hills Regional Council and Rural LISC. These fellows will focus on increasing broadband access and digital literacy and contribute to critical community development initiatives in Northwest Ohio and Perry County. The Ohio Fellows are part of the ACC inaugural class that includes 50 individuals to serve as community leaders across the country. 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.

The American Connection Corps is a new, innovative fellowship program focused on bridging the digital divide, led by Land O’Lakes, Inc. and LFA with funding and support from Heartland Forward for the efforts in Arkansas, Illinois, Ohio and Tennessee. Additional support for the program in Ohio is being provided by the Farm Bureau and CHS.

“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 communities in Ohio this year,” 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 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 Ohioans for many years to come.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic showed us just how critical digital access is in our day-to-day lives, with people depending on the internet for school, work, healthcare and more,” said Angie Cooper, chief program officer for Heartland Forward. “Heartland Forward is thrilled to be working with Lead For America and our local partners to place two fellows in Ohio. We’re optimistic about the progress they’ll make in closing the digital divide in the communities they serve and the advocates they’ll become to help scale success elsewhere.”

“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.”

“As Ohio continues to invest in strategies to expand broadband across the state for those who need it, it’s encouraging to see grassroots efforts on the local level that will help us learn more about the challenges many of these communities are facing because of the digital divide and how we can work together to overcome them,” said Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted, Director of InnovateOhio.

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 that stand in the way of internet access in the communities they serve, strengthen the local 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 hosts and fellows in Ohio are:

● Buckeye Hills Regional Council, Perry County
○ Carly Fitz: Carly is a 2021 graduate of Wilmington College with a dual major in Agricultural Communications and Political Science with a focus on Agriculture Advocacy and Food Policy. Raised in Perry County, Carly will be working with the Buckeye Hills Regional Council to strategize for broadband/fiber expansion and installation to ensure Appalachian Ohio counties can bridge the digital divide.

● Rural LISC, Northwest Ohio
○ Elizabeth Lima: Liz attended Ohio State University, where she served as Director of the Sustainability Committee and as a representative on the President and Provost’s Council on Sustainability. In her work with Rural LISC, she will support their Digital Equity programming through partnerships with the Great Lakes Community Action Partnership and Northwestern Ohio Community Action. Liz will support the training and management of Rural LISC Digital Navigators cohorts who are trained to support low income individuals and families to get connected to low-cost internet, find the right device and learn how to use technology to advance their goals.

“Appalachian Ohio’s economic, educational, and cultural well-being depend on everyone having access to affordable high-speed internet,” said Sam Miller, development director at Buckeye Hills Regional Council. “Thanks to our partnership with the American Connection Corps, Buckeye Hills Regional Council is excited to have Carly join our team as a fellow who will work with our local communities to bridge the digital divide in southeast Ohio.”

“Rural LISC invests in people and places by supporting community-based partner organizations through the provision of financial resources, technical assistance and training so that, in turn, they can support rural communities as good places to live, work, play and innovate,” said Rural LISC director Caitlin Cain. “We are thrilled to partner with Lead For America’s American Connection Corps program to help train dynamic and diverse leaders to bridge the digital divide by strengthening access and broadband internet opportunities for rural communities. We welcome Fellow Liz Lima to the Rural LISC team to enhance the work of our Ohio-based Digital Navigator program partners and beyond.”

Heartland Forward’s participation in the ACC is part of its three-year Connecting the Heartland initiative focused on ensuring families and businesses across America’s heartland have access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet service. They are partnering with LFA to place Fellows in Arkansas, Illinois, Ohio and Tennessee.

For general information on the ACC, please visit:

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 Heartland Forward:
Heartland Forward is a nonpartisan, 501c3 organization whose mission is to improve economic performance in the center of the United States by advocating for fact-based solutions to foster job creation, knowledge-based and inclusive growth and improved health outcomes. Heartland Forward conducts independent, data-driven research and programs to facilitate action-oriented discussion and impactful policy recommendations. To learn more, visit https://heartlandforward.org/.

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.


Media Contacts:
Heartland Forward: Lara Sisselman
Lead for America: Matthew Miller
Land O’Lakes, Inc.: Abbey Shilling