Benya Kraus, Co-Founder and Minnesota Executive Director at Lead For America, returned to rural Minnesota after graduating from Tuft University with a mission—to help other “Hometown Fellows” return to their communities while working to inspire individuals to engage in their counties, towns, and districts.
“When I went to college, I studied international relations and assumed I’d move to and float between big cities the rest of my life,” Kraus stated in an interview with the Center on Rural Innovation. “Then, a tough family situation diverted a D.C. internship and brought me back to Waseca. I saw the community planning ahead to 2030, saw the town’s creativity, saw the dynamism of entrepreneurial new immigrant-owned businesses on Main Street. I got hooked on this new side of Waseca I hadn’t seen before.” Kraus’ personal experiences encouraged her engagement as a Co-Founder of Lead For America. “Benya tirelessly invests in the young talent, leadership, and networks needed to establish locally-rooted and globally-oriented change-making.”
Where challenges tend to outpace available resources, young leaders are hungry to create change. Lead For America utilizes these young leaders’ ambitious desires to lead individuals to where they feel “home” is, and then aids them in creating a community that is strong, vibrant, and compassionate. Throughout a two-year placement, Lead For America helps its fellows to find and design work in their local governments and community non-profits. A two-year stipend is offered to Lead For America’s fellows; however, their journey to creating change in their communities is encouraged to continue for an additional two years. Lead For America believes that “to enact transformational change, leaders must make a long-term commitment to the places they serve.”
About Lead for America
Lead for America sponsors 93 fellows in 81 different communities, has 45 selected and supported corps members, and has state affiliates launched in both North Carolina and Minnesota. Lead For America has raised over $2.5 million to keep its fellows. 90% of all funds are raised locally, and host contracts and local generosity fund 100% of fellowships. When moving forward, their mission is to grow their fellowship to one million individuals by 2040. They are striving to tackle their communities’ most prevalent issues and working to create “a perfect union built upon communities that care.”