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Recognizing 100 CEOs & C-level Executives

Shelby Pedersen


ICAN: Positive Programs for Youth

Location: Chandler

Founded: 1991

Industry: Youth Services

Shelby Pedersen was hired in 2008 to build a fundraising team from scratch for ICAN: Positive Programs for Youth. In just three years, she played a pivotal role in more than doubling ICAN’s annual operating revenue and raising an additional $5.65 million to construct a new facility, doubling the organization’s impact and the number of youth served. In 2016, Pedersen was appointed CEO, taking over the leadership role to continue expanding ICAN’s impact.

“Every decision, every initiative, every big idea — they all have the potential to expose leaders and organizations to great risk, but in my experience, having the right people on the team is the best way to mitigate that risk,” Pedersen said. “When ICAN was three months into the pandemic and debating whether we could continue to execute our growth plans, we ultimately decided that the risk was worth taking because we believed in our team. We had the right ‘who’s’ to make it happen. That decision has paid dividends over time and reinforced the idea that with the right people, taking risks is just part of the journey.”

ICAN was founded when a man named Henry Salinas saw gang violence and drugs tearing apart his community. He vowed to create a program that would help youth make good decisions and keep them busy and learning after school, ultimately growing into productive adults. Salinas led ICAN through the 1990s into the 2000s, when Pedersen joined the team.

Pedersen has led the organization to expand from one site in Chandler to five sites across Chandler and Mesa. It now serves 700 youth, providing developmental programs during after school hours and school breaks. The goal is to create a scalable model that can be replicated in other communities, addressing the opportunity gap for youth and their families. Pedersen envisions a future where ICAN’s success serves as a launching pad for similar programs across different cities.

“By investing in youth today, we can ensure that our community has greater talent to lead us into the future,” Pedersen’s team said. “Alongside this longer-term vision, Shelby continues to expand direct services in the short-term. By 2026, Shelby and her team have set the ambitious goal to yet again, double revenue and double impact (going from five sites to 10, serving 1,000+ youth).”

Pedersen has been honored with the When Work Works Award, the Outstanding Out-of-School Time Program Award, the Diversity in Action Award and the Excellence in Summer Learning Award. She also received the Martin Luther King Jr. Keeping the Dream Alive Award and the Women of Chandler Award.

Presented by:

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Comerica Bank

Fun Fact: Shelby is a pretty competitive human and loves competing in challenges, pushing her limits to see what both her body and her mind are capable of. If she can involve her family or friends, even better! She’s completed several hiking competitions, the longest was hiking 7 summits, logging over 26 miles in one day. She has also completed a 5 day hiking/camping trek in the Ausangate Mountains of Peru; finished multiple half-marathons; hiked five 14,000+ foot elevation peaks in Peru and Colorado (her tallest mountain is just shy of 18,000 feet); and participates in fitness competitions through her gym regularly. To challenge her mind, Shelby practices mindfulness and is an avid reader, finishing between 25-50 books a year.


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