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American Eagle Outfitters to Spend $ 5M on Retail Associates’ Education

● Employees who have a proven track record of fighting for social justice issues are eligible to receive up to $40,000 for college expenses.

- BY KELLIE ELL

American Eagle Outfitters is making some new investment­s.

This time, the retailer is helping finance the education of its associates with the AEO Real Change Scholarshi­p for Social Justice. The $5 million endowment will fund college expenses for employees who have a track record of promoting social justice issues within their communitie­s.

“Our associates have always been the heartbeat of AEO Inc. and real change comes from investing in our people,” Jay Schottenst­ein, executive chairman and chief executive officer of American Eagle Outfitters, told WWD. “The scholarshi­p was created to help dismantle systematic racism by providing equitable education opportunit­ies and encouragin­g our AEO family to make a positive impact in the world — and within our company — through work that promotes social justice.”

American Eagle Outfitters, which includes the American Eagle, Aerie,

Todd Snyder and Unsubscrib­ed brands, employs nearly 40,000 associates globally. About 70 percent of those employees are in Generation Z, or under the age of 25. But the scholarshi­p is open to all full- and part-time associates, including in-store, corporate and distributi­on center employees, who are pursuing an undergradu­ate degree. Applicants must submit a personal statement outlining how they’re taking a stand against social justice issues — such as racism, hatred, bigotry, discrimina­tion or inequality — demonstrat­e financial need and maintain a 3.0 grade point average, among other criteria.

The scholarshi­p is meant to support underrepre­sented communitie­s, such as Black, Indigenous and people of color, as well as low-income families, Schottenst­ein said, “So they can pursue the education they deserve and achieve their goals.”

“Our people are young and passionate and they want to make the world a better place,” Schottenst­ein said. “This scholarshi­p helps them do just that, while we further AEO’s commitment to antiracism, equality and social justice.”

The first round of applicatio­ns are due March 1, 2021, and winners will be selected by April 1, 2021. Applicants can apply online. Fifteen winners will be selected the first year, all of whom are eligible to receive up to $40,000, which can be used to pay for tuition, housing and books. Recipients will also be assigned a mentor, someone at American Eagle Outfitters who can assist with career developmen­t and navigating the college experience.

Schottenst­ein said the goal is to continue the program for at least the next 10 years, which will help approximat­ely 125 associates pursue a post- secondary school education. If successful, the company will continue beyond its initial $5 million commitment, he said. American Eagle Outfitters’ employees can apply at any time during their undergradu­ate careers and are eligible to receive the scholarshi­p for up to four years, provided they maintain the scholarshi­p guidelines.

“The AEO Real Change Scholarshi­p for Social Justice demonstrat­es our commitment to help end racism, inequality and discrimina­tion — and create lasting change through the educationa­l advancemen­t of the next generation of leaders,” Schottenst­ein said.

In addition to the scholarshi­p, American Eagle Outfitters also offers a tuition-reimbursem­ent benefit to qualifying associates. Other efforts aimed at social justice issues include naming a chief inclusion and diversity officer earlier this year, matching employee contributi­ons up to $100,000 to organizati­ons fighting racism and social justice causes and pledging $500,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund to support the nonprofit’s education equity work and scholarshi­ps for Black students.

 ??  ?? American Eagle Outfitters’ retail store associates will soon be able to apply for scholarshi­ps to help fund their college education.
American Eagle Outfitters’ retail store associates will soon be able to apply for scholarshi­ps to help fund their college education.

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