AEO Foundation Grant Recipient Spotlight: Pittsburgh Youth Leadership

At AEO, we believe we have a responsibility to do better, to be better and to build a better world. We are committed to showing the world that there’s REAL power in the optimism of youth by supporting causes that matter to all of us and the world.

Our grant recipient spotlight series features the amazing work of the nonprofits supported by the AEO Foundation.

Imagine having the chance to travel from one coast to the other – adventuring across some of America’s most breathtaking roads and sites. This has become a reality for many at-risk youth throughout the Pittsburgh region thanks to the non-profit Pittsburgh Youth Leadership (PYL) – an organization that seeks to promote positive leadership skills, develop outdoor adventurous spirit and provide opportunity to accomplish ambitious goals through all-expenses paid biking adventures.

Since the organization’s inception in 2006, more than 170 kids have cycled nearly 418,000 miles (almost a trip to the moon and back!) on cross-county trips, taking them out of their local communities – many for the first time – and offering them the chance to see some of the amazing things that the world has to offer.

AEO has been a supporter of PYL for more than a decade, most recently awarding the organization a $50,000 grant during the 2021 AEO Foundation Golf Tournament.

The gear, lodging, meals and everything in between come at no cost to the kids, and “It’s all thanks to companies like AEO,” said PYL President, Mark Rubenstein. “We would not be able to do what we do without our supporters.”

Mark adds, “You could have a kid who has never left Pittsburgh and they might be on the fence between making good decisions and bad decisions, and because we get funding from our sponsors, they now have the opportunity to take a cycling trip to somewhere like Utah or Arizona. They will be around other kids and staff who have made similar trips, and they will ultimately be positive influences in their life. The kids get to see that there is a whole different world outside of what they know and – maybe for the first time – realize that it’s something they want to be a part of.”

If there were any curiosity about the impact PYL has had on local youth, you’d need to look no further than their staff – as they employ many former program participants. Cody Wagner, full-time Program Director at PYL, went on multiple cycling trips with the nonprofit throughout all four years of high school. The first in his family to graduate college, Cody credits much of the success and the opportunities he’s had to his time spent with PYL.

Cody shares, “For me to be a part of this is incredible. I have kids and a city depending on me, and the gratification I get from being able to uplift and help build a community – while utilizing all of the leadership skills I’ve learned from PYL – is motivating and exciting. When I see all of the opportunities that the kids have, such as learning healthy eating habits and the value of mentorship, it feels good to know that I’m doing good in the world. The kids depend on us, and companies like AEO depend on us to make an impact too.”

At AEO our purpose is to show the world that there’s REAL power in the optimism of youth, and we’re proud to team up with organizations like Pittsburgh Youth Leadership and inspire today’s youth by making a difference in their lives and in their communities.

To learn more about Pittsburgh Youth Leadership, click here