One of the greatest legacies of the International Polar Year (IPY) is the creation of APECS, the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists. As a grassroots effort, APECS was proposed, formed, and developed by and for early career polar researchers. While the young investigators who founded APECS had talent, ambition, and the desire to make things happen, partnerships with key organizations and experienced leaders in polar science were essential to provide the funding, leadership, and mentorship that has taken the organization well beyond the IPY and to over 2000 members. In four years, APECS has strived to foster the skills of and develop a group of early career interdisciplinary polar scientists through networking and mentoring among themselves and with senior scientists. Through diverse activities including, panel discussions, career development workshops, online seminars, a comprehensive job listing, formal mentoring, meeting travel support, and the APECS Virtual Poster Session, APECS goal is to support the early career researcher being trained to do the science, to become a well-rounded scientist prepared for 21st century careers in science. As part of that training, APECS members are encouraged to participate in activities and training related to science communication, education, and outreach; working with the media; participating in the science / public policy interface; and working with arctic communities and indigenous peoples. During the IPY, APECS members were guest speakers and presenters on International Polar Day activities; they contributed to resources for education and outreach such as the book: Polar Science and Global Climate: An International Resource for Education and Outreach; and they made connections with educators, community groups, the media through in-person presentations, blogs from the field, videos, and much more. Workshops, panels, and online discussions focusing on these activities helped develop the capacity to conduct such activities---which are often not part of a traditional science graduate program of study. APECS is proof that a community driven effort can become a robust professional organization in just a few short years. Working with senior scientists and other mentors, such as non-science faculty members, educators, members of the media, administrative professionals, and policy makers, to build capacity of the membership and the organization is a major lesson from the establishment of APECS. Additional lessons include, nurturing your volunteers and new ideas. By building connections between senior scientists, and established polar science organizations to new scientists and professionals and fresh ideas APECS is creating a continuum by which polar science can effectively transition from observation, to synthesis, and towards response. In a period where the polar regions are experiencing rapid environmental change, having the tools and skills to work effectively cross-discipline and within, as well as outside the scientific community, will be essential to address the changes through science-based policy and a well-informed public. APECS can serve as a model for other early career initiatives in many disciplines and countries.