Good Human Spotlight: Shelby Pederson, ICAN6 min read

In Stories, Theirs by Crissy SaintLeave a Comment

Q+A With Shelby Pedersen (CEO of ICAN)
    • What is ICAN’s mission? To provide free, comprehensive programs that empower youth to become productive, self-confident and responsible members of the community.
    • How did ICAN get started? Henry Salinas founded ICAN in 1991. He was driven by a want to provide safe after-school care for children in his low-income neighborhood. Over the last few decades, ICAN continues to grow its’ program offerings and keeps disadvantaged youth actively and positively engaged in activities that keep them evolving in positive ways.
    • How long have you been at ICAN? 10 years!
    • How does ICAN help humans? ICAN’s purpose is to strengthen the community by cultivating the full potential of youth – everything we do is geared toward making sure little humans are capable of greatness. Our programs build self-esteem, problem-solving skills, communication, and so much more. Each time a young human makes a positive decision, they are improving their chances of being a successful and productive adult (and by extension a successful future parent who continues the positive cycle with their own children).
    • What inspires you to help carry out ICAN’s Mission? I care deeply about education and I believe it holds the power to alleviate so many of the ills our world faces. If children are given equal access to well-rounded education (not just academics, but social and emotional skills too), imagine the difference they can collectively make in this world. I started my nonprofit career with that goal in mind – help make education accessible for everyone.
    • What are ICAN’s plans for the future? ICAN would love to serve more kids who need our program in other parts of our local community of Chandler, and beyond. There are thousands of children who could benefit from the social and emotional education programs we provide who are not currently receiving this curriculum. If ICAN grew, our purpose in doing so would be to reach these kids and help them enrich their lives.
    • What do you love about having a career in which you’re making the world a better place? It’s meaningful – particularly as you see kids making positive progress. I also love being able to connect people outside our organization to the work we do – it spreads to impact when others contribute their own form of kindness to our mission
    • What do you love about having a career in which you are making the world a better place? It’s meaningful – particularly as you see kids making positive progress. I also love being able to connect people outside our organization to the work we do – it spreads to impact when others contribute their own form of kindness to our mission.
    • What impact do you believe the practice of kindness can have on our youth? Kindness is so important – it starts with understanding the people around you and being empathetic to their situations (instead of being judgmental or hurtful). As adults, one of the most powerful things we can model for children is open-mindedness, inclusion and forgiveness, all parts of living a kind life.
    • How do you teach kindness at ICAN? We teach through positive reinforcement most of the time, a practice which involves focusing on the positive things you see in a child’s behavior, rather than the negative. Positive reinforcement is about teaching…whereas negative reinforcement is about punishment. Teaching is a kindness in and of itself!
    • What problem(s) does ICAN solve for the humans it serves? Our program helps prepare kids for their future – we’re trying to solve the problem of poor decision-making, which often leads kids down paths they can’t break free from. Having the right tools in your tool-belt to make strong, positive decisions is the first step in that process. That’s what ICAN does, we provide tools for kids to make great decisions.
    • Can you tell us a little bit more about who you are as a human?  I’m originally from Denver, CO; I have a 4 year-old little girl named Holland, who lights up my life and a husband of almost 10 years named Eric, who makes me a better human every day. Together, we love traveling, being outdoors and experiences new adventures.
Bonus question:

What’s a story you can share about kindness in action at ICAN? ICAN has a Member Council group that takes time each week to recognize the accomplishments of other students, celebrate their birthdays and seek feedback from the kids on things they care about (for example: the type of food we are serving in our lunchroom). The thing I love best about this group is that they come up with their own “give back” activities – so everything they do to celebrate their fellow students they have selected to do themselves.


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