Scoular partners with American Connection Corps
to support Fellows in Nebraska

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Supported by Scoular and Zoetis, 4 Fellows will undertake transformational projects related to broadband connectivity and digital inclusion in Nebraska

OMAHA, Nebraska (August 9, 2021) – Lead For America and Land O’Lakes today announced the placement of four American Connection Corps (ACC) Fellows in Nebraska. Supported by Scoular and Zoetis, these fellows will work to increase broadband access and digital literacy and contribute to critical community development initiatives in Auburn, Humboldt, Lincoln, and Valentine. Over the course of the application window, the program received hundreds of applications from emerging leaders across the country. After an extensive interview process, the Fellows program has selected a total of 50 Fellows to serve as community leaders across the country. 

The American Connection Corps is a new, innovative fellowship program focused on bridging the digital divide, led by Land O’Lakes, Inc. and Lead For America (LFA). 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.

“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 across Nebraska, from Valentine to Lincoln, 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, Scoular, Zoetis, 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 Nebraskans for many years to come.”

“As we expand broadband, there’s a need to train Nebraskans to make the most of digital opportunities,” said Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts. “Thanks to Scoular and Zoetis for funding American Connection Corps Fellows in Nebraska. These leaders will help our residents leverage broadband tools to learn and do business.”

“Engaged and inclusive leadership is essential to growing sustainable, vibrant communities,” said Scoular CEO Paul Maass. “These four young leaders demonstrate what’s possible when stakeholders come together to invest in solving critical issues for Nebraskans, and Scoular is honored to be part of this commitment to our state.”

“Millions of families across the country are disconnected from the digital infrastructure that is integral to advancing future opportunities for our American rural communities,” said Tim Bettington, Zoetis Executive Vice President and President of U.S. Operations. “These fellows who have made it their purpose to better their Nebraska communities will make long-lasting contributions to the sustainability of our crucial American rural communities.”

“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.”

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 facing Nebraska, strengthen its 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 fellows and their hosts in Nebraska are:

  • Southeast Nebraska Development District (SENDD), Humboldt
    • Oliver Borchers-Williams: Oliver is a longtime resident of Southeast Nebraska and 2018 graduate of Nebraska City High School. From this, Oliver has a firsthand understanding of the region’s challenges – and its unique potential for growth. As a part of this fellowship, Oliver will help form Broadband Action Teams (BATs) to educate stakeholders, officials, and residents on the tools needed to help build out broadband projects.
  • Southeast Nebraska Development District (SENDD), Lincoln
    • Michael Dwiggins: Michael grew up in Castle Rock, Colorado and came to Lincoln, Nebraska to go to college at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where he graduated with a double major in History and Political Science. Having strong familial ties in Lincoln, Michael has always felt that Lincoln was his true hometown. Working with the SENDD, Michael will be working to expand broadband access in the sixteen counties that encompass the SENDD, a task he views as both monumentally important and an honor to work on.
  • Auburn Development Council
    • Kenneth Edwards: Hailing from the village of Table Rock and later growing up in Humboldt, Kenny graduated from University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is currently seeking his Master’s in Rural Development from UNL as well. In Table Rock, Kenny serves on the Village Board, is Vice President of the Table Rock Development Corporation, and is a founding member of the Table Rock Betterment Project. As a Development Coordinator in Auburn, Kenneth will take on efforts to expand broadband access in Nemaha County.
  • Valentine Economic Development Board
    • Breanna Wirth: Breanna was born and raised in Mead, Nebraska and a graduate of Grand Canyon University. She recently served as the Network, Economic, and Industrial Development intern for Union Pacific Railroad where she was directly involved with efforts directly committed to building American infrastructure. Previously, Breanna served as a staff intern for the Arizona State Senate through the Arizona Legislative Internship Program. She will contribute to the betterment of Valentine and Cherry County by helping expand broadband access outside of Valentine city limits.
 

“The Southeast Nebraska Development District (SENDD) has listened to southeast Nebraska residents for years talk about not having affordable, reliable broadband service,” SENDD’s Executive Director, Tom Bliss said. “SENDD wants to work to close the digital divide, and this partnership with the American Connection Corps will be critical in solving this issue. The need for quality, affordable broadband became very apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic and we are so excited for this opportunity to help support not only Southeast Nebraska, but for the betterment of the entire state.”

“Auburn Development Council is excited to welcome Ken to our team as a Fellow to help expand broadband access and bridge the digital divide here in Auburn and Nemaha County,” said Auburn Development Council President Leslie Clark. “Partnering with the American Connection Corps in this endeavor will continue to strengthen Auburn Development Council’s efforts to create a thriving and connected community that will rise up to meet the needs of our region’s future.”

Valentine Economic Development Board Executive Director Mike Burge stated, “In Valentine, we believe in creating a quality of life for our residents. We are excited for the opportunity to work with Lead For America as we will continue to strive to keep our community thriving and work to solve issues that can hinder that growth.”

The American Connection Corps is led in conjunction with Lead For America (LFA) and funded through the support of 20 additional partner organizations, including: Land O’Lakes, 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.

For general information on the ACC, please visit: https://www.lead4america.org/american-connection-corps

A 128-year-old company with $6 billion in annual sales, Scoular creates safe and reliable supply chain solutions for end-users and suppliers of grain, feed ingredients, and food ingredients. From its more than 100 offices and facilities in North America and Asia, Scoular’s 1,000-plus employees lead the way by buying, selling, storing, handling and processing grain and ingredients as well as managing transportation and logistics for customers around the world.

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