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FAO launches program to recruit and retain next-generation leaders for Appalachian Ohio

First phase focuses on K-12 workers in region

NELSONVILLE, Ohio – The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio has launched a new fellowship program designed to support and grow the next generation of community leaders for Appalachian Ohio, with an initial focus on those working with K-12 students.

Growing Home Fellows must be between the ages of 18 and 35 and agree to live, work and volunteer in Appalachian Ohio for a five-year period. During that time, they will receive a $32,000 stipend as they participate in a leadership program consisting of service, skill development and peer learning.

In the pilot year of the program, FAO seeks to award 120 fellowships, split evenly between those who currently work with the K-12 population in Appalachian Ohio and those who intend to move to the region. Students graduating by June 2023 who plan to work with K-12 students in one of Appalachian Ohio’s 32 counties are also eligible.

The fellowship is open to anyone who works with K-12 students in school or out-of-school environments, including classroom educators; teacher’s aides; intervention specialists; counselors; school nurses; bus drivers; occupational and physical therapists; speech language pathologists; and others.

“We’re excited for the difference Growing Home Fellows will make through their leadership in our communities and schools,” said Cara Dingus Brook, FAO president and CEO. “We’re also excited about the way our inaugural class of Growing Home Fellows will strengthen the leadership skills of a new generation of leaders for Appalachian Ohio – their students.”

The Growing Home pilot program is funded through a public-private partnership that includes support from the Ohio Department of Higher Education through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, made possible through the 2020 CARES Act. Additional funding comes from FAO’s I’m a Child of Appalachia® fund and individual donors.

“The Growing Home Fellowship addresses two critical workforce needs in Appalachian Ohio: the need for well-trained people to work with our K-12 population and the need for committed young leaders who want to live and work in the region for years to come,” said Randy Gardner, chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education. “We’re proud to support this effort designed to ensure that Appalachian Ohio can attract and retain the talent needed to spark continued growth in the region for generations to come.” Applications for the Growing Home Fellowship program are currently being accepted. For more information and to apply, visit or call 740.753.1111. FAO plans to award all fellowships by Dec. 31, 2022.