Hosea Born cares deeply about rural communities and sees their potential for growth. Originally from Southwest Missouri, Hosea attended the University of Arkansas and moved to Hope, Arkansas after graduating to become an Arkansas Teacher Corps fellow. His time as a middle school teacher and volunteer firefighter showed him how much rural areas have to offer, but that a lack of resources poses challenges to achieving their potential.
To address this challenge, Hosea will serve as an American Connection Corps fellow with the Southwest Arkansas Planning and Development District (SAPDD), based out of Magnolia. SAPDD helps communities across 12 counties access the resources necessary for growth. One of Hosea’s goals for the fellowship, he says, “is to help businesses utilize the internet to help grow the community and their own businesses.”
In Magnolia, Hosea will act as a liaison between SAPDD, broadband providers, and the community on broadband development projects, and will help providers and communities determine the financial viability of broadband projects.
In connecting local communities to broadband and helping small businesses identify opportunities for growth and communication, Hosea hopes to play a role in helping “Southwest Arkansas come together and grow.”
Having grown up just 45 minutes from Peoria, Grace is no stranger to the issues facing Central Illinois. After graduating from Saint Mary’s College in 2021, Grace knew she wanted to work in a job where she could help others, saying, “I was really motivated to find a career that specifically entailed some aspect of service.”
Grace recently returned home to serve as an American Connection Corps fellow with the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council (GPEDC), a role she calls “a perfect fit.” There, she’s tackling one of the greatest challenges facing her local community: internet access.
In Peoria, Grace collaborates with GPEDC staff on various aid program offerings to determine feasibility and eligibility for said programs. She also provides digital navigation and technical literacy support to the community in tandem with local partner organizations. She enjoys hearing people’s stories and understanding their experiences, saying that “one of the greatest things a leader can have is the ability to first listen and understand.”
Additionally, to ensure Peorians can find affordable connections and devices, Grace will perform outreach to local educational institutions to help them take advantage of the Emergency Connectivity Fund. She also hopes to help expand the Illinois Office of Broadband’s “PCs for People” program to Peoria. She’s motivated by her belief in service and giving back to the community that raised her, stating “Not only do I get to serve those around me and try to help make our community stronger, but I also get to serve those who have helped build me into the person I am today.”
Following her graduation from Washington University in St. Louis, Mary Gay is remaining in the area to serve as an American Connection Corps Fellow with the Leadership Council Southwest Illinois. In this role, Mary will assist in the implementation of the Illinois Connected Communities Strategic Plan Key Regional Priorities.
Mary will spearhead the development of a broadband grant “war room” from which the Leadership Council can identify funding sources, timelines, and criteria for available grants to expand broadband access. This will streamline the grant process to help relevant stakeholders understand which grants might be the best to bring resources to underserved communities. She’ll also assist in public policy research to drive enhanced broadband and internet access, adoption, and affordability.
Mary is excited for the learning opportunity her fellowship provides, saying, “Even though I came into this position not knowing a lot about broadband, the pandemic made it clear how vital strong internet connection is to thrive in today’s world. The more I learn about it the more motivated I am to make change in this area as a fellow.”
Originally hailing from Gainesville, Florida, Elizabeth Lima fell in love with Columbus during her four years at the Ohio State University. She’ll be staying in the city to serve as an American Connection Corps Fellow, where she will be placed with the Rural Local Initiatives Support Corporation (Rural LISC).
Elizabeth’s pursuit of economic justice through connection motivated her to seek out this fellowship. She was drawn to the work because, in her own words, “Ohio to an extent has been left behind. Columbus, where I’ve been for the last four years, is very economically prosperous, but cities like Toledo or Cleveland, a lot of them have started to fall behind.” She hopes that in Ohio, “economic, systemic issues could be alleviated or remedied by broadband development.”
Through her work with the Rural LISC’s Digital Equity programming, Elizabeth seeks to address these issues by supporting the deployment of programs to rural community-based nonprofits across the nation. She will also support the training of Digital Navigators within Rural LISC-supported cohorts by creating meeting agendas, providing technical assistance, and collecting and managing data. All in all, Elizabeth is motivated by the power of broadband access to connect communities, saying that “it can be a mechanism for economic opportunity which is an exciting way to tackle some economic justice issues throughout Ohio and nationwide.”
A graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, Maddie Long will continue her longstanding commitment to volunteer and nonprofit work through becoming an American Connection Corps fellow. She’s been tapped as the Director of Digital Equity in the Little Rock Mayor’s Office, where, she explains, she’ll “be working with the community and local governments to bridge gaps in access to the internet throughout the city.”
With the mayor’s office, Maddie will build upon the work already in progress to increase internet access, which has been especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic as many were forced to work and learn from home. She’s proud of what has already been done to connect the people of Little Rock, including “creating hotspots in local parks and helping families access work from home and online schooling solutions.”
Maddie has a passion for place-based community engagement and learning, and is looking forward to working on digital literacy initiatives in Little Rock and responding to community needs. “I am excited about the range and nature of this work,” she says, “so that the residents of Little Rock may better pursue educational opportunities, economic empowerment, and civic engagement available through digital means.”