Lead for Nebraska - Community Impact in Action
The Rural Impact Hub is empowering rural communities throughout the state in a big way. We are partnered with Lead for America (LFA)as an affiliate program who places fellows in Nebraska’s rural communities to serve and revitalize Nebraska’s small towns.
Lead for Nebraska is proud to be a program of AmeriCorp ServeNebraska!
Focusing on issues like civic engagement, rural broadband access, digital literacy and economic development while working to make returning to your hometown possible and not the exception to the rule, Lead For Nebraska will fill in the gaps and focus on growth. These tools will directly impact how communities communicate and grow for the next generation.
We have partnered with a nationwide leader for rural empowerment, Lead For America, to establish Lead for Nebraska (LFNE). LFNE enables communities to bring back their homegrown young leaders, adding transformative capacity to address their most significant challenges, all while building the next generation of leadership in rural communities.
In doing this we challenge the narrative that success means “leaving your hometown and never coming back.” By recruiting, training and placing recent college graduates into two-year fellowships in their hometown public institutions, local government and economic development offices we will create opportunity. In the short term, our fellows will tackle their communities’ most pressing and complex challenges; in the long term, they will catalyze a movement to grow the bench of changemakers in Nebraska communities.
We currently work with rural communities to increase literacy in digital communication and digital marketing, offer community-impact programming and the impact of COVID-19. The Rural Impact Hub’s flagship community in Auburn, Nebraska, also includes a collaborative community space for co-working and meetings available to community nonprofits and organizations. The Lead For Nebraska initiative will take that idea statewide.
How will Lead for Nebraska Effect Change?
- Lead for Nebraska fellows will embed in the community they serve for a two-year period. Giving them an opportunity to dig in, make connections and fill in the gaps for overworked and underfunded organizations that are working for good. They will partner with a local host to become a dedicated member of the community all while helping lead the way on decreasing the digital divide.
- Not every host community will have the same needs. This is why fellows will do listening tours in the community they serve to help identify the most pressing issues and ways these communities can unite for a solution. Fellows will then make a plan with their community leaders and get to work.
- Along with the Rural Impact Hub, fellows will create opportunities for locally specific training for the communities where they are placed or work on research to bring opportunities back home.
- Match host sites throughout the state of Nebraska with talented and driven recent graduates from our state or ones that have a significant tie to it and who have a passion for leadership, change and engagement.
- Make returning to rural communities the norm.
- Define goals for a two-year fellowship that include impactful opportunities for communities and fellows.
- Find locally oriented and actionable ways to encourage economic and community development in rural Nebraska.
- Research and identify solutions for rural broadband access in communities where it’s needed most, and help those communities who have it leverage it.
- Create free locally specific training programs to reduce the digital divide and build digital literacy in rural America.
Lead for Nebraska Placements
Ken Edwards – Table Rock, NE
Hailing from the village of Table Rock, Ken Edwards brings his passion and experience to the Auburn Development Council with Lead for Nebraska.
Ken grew up in Humboldt, then went on to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he earned his degree in Political Science and is currently seeking his Master’s in Rural Development through the Great Plains IDEA Program at UNL. He is excited to begin working with the people of Auburn to further develop their great town and hopes to make a positive impact.
In 2016, he was back visiting his father in Table Rock when he realized the potential in rural communities–It took moving away to see this, but it gave him a new purpose to help towns however he can. In Table Rock, Ken serves on the Village Board, is Vice President of the Table Rock Development Corporation, Vice President of the Pawnee County Promotional Network, is Community Lead for Pawnee County Community 4 Kids, is a founding member of the Table Rock Betterment Project and volunteers his time with other local organizations.
When Edwards isn’t working or volunteering his time, he enjoys hanging out with his family/friends, traveling the highways around the country, thrifting/antiquing, golfing at Kirkman’s, playing World of Warcraft, woodworking, remodeling his home, and going to concerts & festivals.
In the winter, he also enjoys cutting trees with his father, Marvin, who owned the sawmill in Table Rock for many years. Ken’s mother, the late Norva Edwards, taught Special Education at Auburn, before teaching Developmental English at Peru State. His parents instilled a strong work ethic and desire to learn, which he is truly grateful for.
Above all, Kenny is a proud rural Nebraskan and is excited to serve in Auburn.
Oliver Borchers-Williams – Nebraska City, NE
Oliver Borchers-Williams is an incoming Fellow with the Southeast Nebraska Development District. He graduated from Miami University (Ohio) in May 2021 with degrees in Political Science and International Studies.
A longtime resident of Southeast Nebraska and a 2018 graduate of Nebraska City High School, Oliver has a firsthand understanding of the region’s challenges – and its unique potential for growth. He hopes to bring fresh perspectives and pragmatic solutions to address the digital divide in rural Nebraska and generate a positive impact on the region he calls home. In his spare time, Oliver enjoys spending time outdoors, keeping up to date on international affairs, and drinking too much coffee.
Michael Dwiggins – Lincoln, NE
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, and is excited to serve the surrounding communities. Serving with the Southeast Nebraska Development District (SENDD), Michael will be committed to expanding broadband access in the sixteen counties that encompass the district, a task he views as both monumentally important and an honor to be a part of.
Breanna Wirth – Mead, NE
Breanna Wirth was born and raised in Mead, Nebraska and feels called to return to Nebraska in order to serve rural communities. Breanna is a graduate of Grand Canyon University and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Government with an emphasis in State and Local Public Policy. She is passionate about public policy in all areas and how it affects constituents not only across her home state of Nebraska but the United States of America as a whole.
Breanna’s professional experiences throughout her college career prove her to be an ambitious and motivated individual with a strong work ethic and a passion to serve others. Most recently, she served as the Network, Economic, and Industrial Development intern for Union Pacific Railroad and was involved with efforts directly committed to building America.
Previously, Breanna served as the Majority Staff Intern for the Arizona State Senate through the Arizona Legislative Internship Program. She had the pleasure of assisting the Republican Senate Caucus throughout the 54th Legislative Session and worked across offices to ensure the work of the people was completed. Additionally, Breanna interned with the Arizona Republican Party, Republican National Committee, and the Nebraska Republican Party, serving as a Neighborhood Team Leader and a financial assistant.
Breanna has chosen to devote her life to public service and provide leadership that empowers citizens, communities, innovation, and optimism. Understanding the importance of striving for a more modern and robust democracy for all, Breanna is dedicated to representing people of all backgrounds and lived experiences.
These previous opportunities have equipped her with the enthusiasm and motivation necessary to uphold the values of a Fellow and serve as the Development Coordinator to contribute to the betterment of Valentine, Nebraska, and Cherry County as a whole.
Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health
Erika Akers – Rapid City, SD
Erika will be serving with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health to address health disparities and advance public health equity especially regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in rural areas and vulnerable populations.