May 30, 2024
Young Kansans working on a unique ‘home improvement’ project

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A group of young professionals is working on home improvement of a different kind.

“We decided to stay in Kansas. We decided to get our hands dirty and truly not run away from the issues that we see, but embrace those challenges and create opportunity from those barriers and those challenges that we see,” said Joseph Shepard, Lead for America.

Lead for America and locally Lead for Kansas work to recruit young people back into their community. Young professionals are paired with a non-profit or government institution tackling a critical challenge in the community.

“Lead for Kansas is showing young people that they don’t need to move away to find opportunity,” said Shepard. “They don’t need to leave their home to find success. They can create opportunity and build success right here in their own homes and find the beauty in their own home.”

The lead for Kansas fellowship is one to two years and is intended to be a launching pad to a life of civic leadership.

“We have fellows who come into our community from other states and decide, hey, Kansas is a great place, and I want to make Kansas my home,” said Shepard.

That’s the case for Brooke Kauchak, who moved from Ohio to Wichita for the fellowship.

“Give people an opportunity they might not have had otherwise and to show others, especially youth, that those opportunities are not that far out of reach than you may think,” said Kauchak.

Most days, Kauchak can be found working with the Wichita city manager, mayor, and city council members.

“They’re a very different group of seven people. They have very different districts, and they kind of encompass all these different communities, and it’s really interesting to try and be the champion for citizens in our clients or customers or government,” said Kauchak. “But we’re all just people; we’re trying to help each other.”

Although Kauchak isn’t working in her hometown, she plans to stay in Wichita. She knows staying can have a powerful impact on a community, specifically for those younger.

“Because once they see you staying, making a life thriving, it inspires other people to really invest in their community,” said Kauchak.

For anyone who has done a home improvement project, you know it’s as much to add value as it is to improve the quality of life for everyone living there.

Applications for the upcoming cohort are open now.


  1. Be a U.S. Citizen, National, or Lawful Permanent Resident.
  2. Possess a high school diploma or GED equivalent.
  3. Be able to make a full-time commitment (the fellowship is full-time).
  4. Will not hold full-time employment during the fellowship. Other obligations should not interfere with the normal programming of the fellowship (i.e. 40 hours/week placement, trainings).
  5. Will not be enrolled in a full-time Undergraduate or Professional degree program during the fellowship and agree to maintain full healthcare coverage during the entirety of the fellowship recognizing LFA provides reimbursements for certain eligible healthcare premiums.
  6. Have not already served four (4) or more AmeriCorps and/or VISTA terms. (AmeriCorps/VISTA members can not serve more than four terms. If you have served four terms, we, unfortunately, cannot continue with your application).