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About the program

The mission of Lead for North Carolina is to strengthen North Carolina’s public institutions, support its local communities, and create a new generation of transformational public service leaders.

We recruit, train, and place promising recent graduates in paid local government fellowships.


Our team recruits dynamic young leaders from colleges and universities across North Carolina. We connect these public service-minded graduates with paid fellowships in local government through an application process.

We train and support our fellows as they tackle community problems and cultivate their leadership skills. Each fellow receives more than 100 hours of training from the UNC School of Government’s world-class faculty.

Our process places service-minded fellows in communities statewide, where they connect with change agents and community leaders, increase government capacity, and lead the charge as we re-imagine public service.

We believe a single visionary leader rooted in humility can change a community. Many leaders working together can transform our state and our country.


Through Lead for North Carolina, our fellows:

  • Gain new perspectives and an appreciation for local government.
  • Recognize the most pressing issues facing their communities.
  • Learn how to enact communal and systemic change.
  • Establish relationships with partner organizations, governments, and universities.
  • Engage with a growing alumni network of passionate leaders.

Rebecca Badgett manages the curriculum and training for the LFNC Summer Academy and provides ongoing teaching for fellows during their service. She is an expert on grants management. Read more about Rebecca.

Liam Hysjulien assists with the day-to-day operation of the fellowship program. Read more about Liam.

Alycia Inserra provides program management oversight for Lead for North Carolina’s events. Read more about Alycia.

Kara Millonzi serves as faculty lead for Lead for North Carolina. As an expert on local government finance law, general county law, school finance, utilities finance, development finance, and incorporation, she teaches and publishes extensively on these topics for public officials. Read more about Kara.

Dylan Russell is the executive director of Lead for North Carolina, which he founded in 2019. He sets the vision, mission, and strategic direction for the program. Read more about Dylan.

Lead for North Carolina is housed within the School of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As the largest university-based local government training, advisory, and research organization in the United States, the School has improved the lives of North Carolinians for more than 90 years by engaging in practical scholarship that helps public officials and citizens understand and improve state and local government.

Fellows collaborate closely with nationally renowned School of Government faculty who provide training and support during and beyond their fellowship. The School is also home to the top-ranked UNC Master of Public Administration (MPA) program.

Our work is made possible by the generous support of our funders and strategic partners.


Lead for North Carolina is an official AmeriCorps program and is sponsored by the North Carolina Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service.

Signature funder

The SECU Foundation promotes local and community development by primarily funding high impact projects in the areas of housing, education, healthcare and human services. The Foundation has awarded more than $1.5 million to support Lead for North Carolina

Taking a place-based approach, Anonymous Trust seeks to elevate and empower rural and under-resourced communities in eastern North Carolina through grant-making, resource development, and relationship building.

The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation believes the quality of life of the people of North Carolina depends, in large part, on an informed and involved populace that is able to exercise its individual rights and come together for a common purpose.

State Farm supports safety, education and community development programs across the country, including in North Carolina.


Strategic and philanthropic partners

Thank you to our previous philanthropic partners: First Bank, Jessie Ball duPont Fund, North Carolina League of Municipalities, Wells Fargo, and Golden LEAF Foundation.

We are grateful to these strategic partners for their support: North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, North Carolina City and County Management Association, and Lead for America. 

May 29, 2024

WHQR sat down with Talula Dechev, a Lead for NC fellow based in Columbus County, to talk about her work in water infrastructure and rental inspections.

January 19, 2024

The first cohort of Lead for North Carolina Fellows made a splash in communities across the state, launching meaningful projects with real-world impact.

January 19, 2024

Fellow Nick Boyd’s work with the Community Rating System program earned recognition for reducing flood insurance premiums for county homeowners.

AmeriCorps