American Eagle Outfitters Helps Launch Youth Conservation Initiative

American Eagle Outfitters Helps Launch Youth Conservation Initiative

The following post was written by Anne Pedtke, Student Conservation Association Marketing Outreach Coordinator. The Student Conservation Association, one of American Eagle Outfitters’ national charity partners, is a national conservation force of high school and college students who protect America’s natural resources and restore our environment. Ann had attended the kick off of a remarkable new program called the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps [21CSC] in Washington, DC.

Ann joined Helga Ying, American Eagle Outfitters Vice President of External Engagement and Social Responsibility, and U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on the steps of the President Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial to officially launch the corps and announce AEO’s $1 million donation.


“American Eagle Outfitters Helps Launch Youth Conservation Initiative” by Ann Pedtke



U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell celebrating the 21CSC launch at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. Photo credit: DOI/Tami A. Heilemann.


On January 8th, at the President Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, members and alumni from the Student Conservation Association [SCA] joined U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in announcing the creation of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps [21CSC]. American Eagle Outfitters’ pledged $1 million to help launch the program. The original Civilian Conservation Corps was founded by President Roosevelt in 1933 as part of the New Deal to provide jobs conserving natural resources and grounds owned by the federal, state and local governments to Americans during the Great Depression. Now AEO is stepping up as the first corporate partner in a federal program that aims to engage 1 million volunteers and provide conservation training opportunities to 100,000 youth across the U.S. every year.

A longtime partner of SCA, American Eagle Outfitters has already made life-changing outdoor experiences possible for thousands of students in SCA’s Alternative Spring Break and Hurricane Sandy Recovery programs.

“The Student Conservation Association was a pioneer 57 years ago,” said Secretary Jewell, “and it has inspired many, many other youth conservation corps around the country. So the work of SCA as a partner with us in our National Parks and other public lands has been critical.”

SCA members and alumni were excited to be on the National Mall to witness the Secretary’s historic announcement. Bundled up against single-digit temperatures, students filled the audience as Secretary Jewell spoke about the importance of youth engagement in the outdoors. “These young people,” the Secretary said, gesturing to the ranks of SCA members who stood behind her, “are getting a taste for what we, as human beings, long for… a connection to nature and the outdoors that feeds the soul. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to know that there are students like these all over the country making a difference in our public lands.”


Secretary Jewell speaks with SCA crew leader Tom M.

Secretary Jewell speaks with SCA crew leader Tom M.


American Eagle Outfitters’ Helga Ying added, “This public-private partnership is one close to our customers’ hearts and directly reinforces our company’s community engagement principles. Through this initiative, we are able to provide opportunities for students to work together to protect our planet and improve our country through a deeper connection to nature, civic engagement and community development.”


Helga Ying of American Eagle Outfitters

Helga Ying, VP of External Engagement and Corporate Responsibility, speaks about AEO’s donation. Photo credit: DOI/Tami A. Heilemann.


After the announcement, Secretary Jewell led the students on a walking tour of the memorial, then invited four SCA members back to Department of the Interior headquarters for lunch. “Having lunch with Secretary Jewell was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Tai Schroeder, a three-time alum of SCA now studying zoology at the University of Wisconsin. “We talked about our experiences with the outdoors and what sparked our interest in environmentalism. I learned that no matter what age you are you can make an impact.”


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Secretary Jewell took the time to speak with students and tour the memorial after the announcement.


Jeremy Taitaino, an alum of SCA’s community crews now majoring in biology at Temple University, agreed. “Youth are the most important part of the conservation movement … We are the people who are going to be running this country in the future, so if we get involved in conservation early, we can really make a difference.”

Find out how you can become involved with AEO Better World and the SCA by visiting the #SCAserve website.

Follow along on social media:

Twitter: @the_SCA; @Interior; @SecretaryJewell

Instagram: @the_SCA; @USInterior

More coverage:

NPR: “Interior Secretary Wants to Create Jobs for Conservationists

Washington Post: “American Eagle Outfitters Pledges $1 Million for Public Land Effort

Official Press Release: “Secretary Jewell Announces $1 Million Private Funding Commitment to Advance Youth & Conservation Initiative

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