Eagle Scout AY Young, 30, is grabbing the world’s attention — both with his activism (which started with his Eagle project) and with his music. Young dedicated his Eagle project to his activism and currently spends much of his time ensuring that disadvantaged communities have access to electricity. With his music, Young has released two albums full of personal and motivating songs.
“The idea for me in life is to bring everyone together, because deep down I feel that we are all the same and one big family,” he says.
Growing up in inner-city Kansas City, Mo., Young made it his goal to change the world. He created The Battery Tour – a concert series powered by renewable energy — which raises money through donations to provide portable solar-powered boxes for villages in countries that don’t have reliable access to electricity. Some examples are Haiti and Honduras.
Out of 18,000 nominations, Young was recently selected to be one of 17 Youth Leaders for Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations. He is the only person in the U.S. to earn this title. Young describes this moment as “incredible.”
“As I look back (almost crying), it’s been 10 long years of trying to plug in the world and make an impact with everyone together working as one. The U.N. gave me the credentials and validity to really amplify impact.”
How it all started
The idea started brewing in the late 2000s — that’s when Young started thinking of ways to empower his community by using music. Later, he brought his idea to life with the help of his Eagle project, which involved researching how to power a concert using renewable energy, building a device that could use using preexisting technology, and hosting a concert.
“I built the energy box I call the ‘Outlet’ and began powering my concerts using the Outlet itself to raise awareness about sustainability and fundraising to bring people around the world electricity,” he says. “Thus, the Battery Tour was born and has plugged in 17-plus countries to date.”
The energy box is a suitcase-sized box with a lid that captures solar energy and stores it in batteries. On the outside of the box are multiple outlets — allowing people to plug in cords to charge their music equipment, laptops, phones and more. Young is the first artist to power a concert using these energy boxes.
Young decided to name his project the “Outlet” after he discovered that nearly 1 billion people in the world lack access to electricity. He also had learned through performing that everyone is an outlet for change.
“I remember performing and looking back saying, ‘Um, my name’s AY and … this is the Battery Tour.’ I think I said that because there were batteries behind me,” he says. “That’s when audience members and onlookers started donating money to keep the Battery Tour powered up. They would say, ‘We are your outlets. We power the tour.’”
Today, the energy boxes are more enhanced thanks to the partnerships Young has with many technology companies.
Bringing awareness to sustainable development
As a Young Leader for the SDGs, Young has teamed up with the U.N. to bring awareness to sustainability development through Project 17, which consists of three phases.
“It’s the first project of its kind and will build bridges between all facets of humanity like the world’s best artists, the most popular influencers, the biggest companies and the most outstanding charities. All while putting people and their passion at the center, inspiring them to take action and creating real change together.”
In step one, Young and some of the world’s most popular artists, such as Billie Eilish and Coldplay, will record the world’s first sustainable album. It’s going to have 17 songs — each will represent a sustainable development goal.
Next, the artists will perform the album at 17 festivals across the U.S. starting in May 2022. Their goal is to provide clarity and share the message behind each sustainability goal.
Lastly, Young will help push the Project 17 education program in schools and colleges across the country. And he will assist with creating a guidebook for the music industry, which will teach musicians how to produce and tour sustainably, collaborate with key players and more.
Passion for music and Scouting
Young started his journey as a music performer and producer by writing poetry.
“I wasn’t allowed to listen to hip-hop or rap music, so I wrote about what I saw,” he says. “One day, my brother was playing the guitar, and I started speaking what I’d written to the music.”
Young’s music brings attention to community development, education, the environment and more. He believes people of all ages will relate to his music, especially kids.
“My music will fuel your dreams,” Young says. “I was picked on and bullied a lot for how I spoke and how I dressed. Don’t worry about what others say; as long as you are yourself, that is beautiful and all that is necessary.”
Young, who was in Troop 1024 in Kansas City, Mo., earned the rank of Eagle in June 2009. He credits his parents and the Scouting organization for playing a huge part in his life and success. He says Scouting has made him the person he is today.
“I’m blessed. I’m not sure if I’d have this career, life and dream if I hadn’t had Scouting to drive me forward and keep me prepared,” he says. “My dad supported me in Scouting and helped. I owe so much to Scoutmaster David Penner from Troop 1024. And my mother kept me going when I got distracted with sports.”
Traveling the world comes with many challenges for Young, especially being away from his friends and family. However, he says it feels amazing knowing there are other Scouts in the audience at his concerts.
“You have no idea how hard it’s been powering close to 900 concerts around the U.S. when most people didn’t even understand sustainability or energy storage,” he says. “And knowing others out there went to battle, know the Scout Oath and Law — patrol leaders, Star Scouts, Life Scouts, Cub Scouts — it’s so cool to be connected to a group of people who get me.”
AY hopes Scouts will take away a positive message after listening to his songs like “Say Hey,” which inspires people to be themselves. That is one of the important things he learned in life.
“Love yourself. Trust yourself. Be yourself,” Young says.
With everything he has accomplished thus far, Young wants all Scouts to know that they can do anything they put their minds to, no matter what rank they hold.
“It’s been rough, but I’m blessed to finally have a platform through Scouting to hopefully amplify my efforts to make positive change and real impact,” Young says. “If you’re an Eagle Scout or not, I’m here to prove that you can do anything. So let’s show the world what Scouts are made of!”