Latino Leaders Magazine ASAS-LA President and Executive Director, Ana Campos featured!
Latino Leaders Magazine
December 2009-January 2010 issue
Latinas Making a Difference
Story by Laura Rivas
Ana Campos admits that she was one of the lucky ones. The president and executive director of After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles grew up much like the kids her organization serves. A product of her environment in the best sense, she took advantage of her public school education and, supported by family and educators, sidestepped the pitfalls that claimed many of her peers. Her early determination to make a difference in the lives of young people was never forgotten, though, and Campos changed careers mid-flight in order to do just that.
Raised by a fiercely protective mother, Campos knew early on the importance of education. “Education, from my mother’s perspective, was the key to opening avenues for our future,” says Campos. “From a young age, she talked to me about doing my best and aspiring to college—which was so important to her because none of my family had ever gone.” In junior high, Campos started to feel peer pressure, realizing that many girls her age were becoming involved with gangs. She jokes that being tall helped her out of some sticky situations but fear of her mother’s wrath was the biggest deterrent for staying away from gangs and drugs. “I could have done what a lot of my peers were doing—getting involved with drugs and gangs. I was very luck that I did not take that path.”
High school brought new possibilities and new ways of seeing the future. Campos had her first taste of “school culture,” participating in the drill team after school. Her teachers and counselors noticed her academically and encouraged her college ambitions. At the University of Southern California, her dream school, Campos connected with an organization for Mexican –American students. “They worked with incoming Latino freshmen, talking to and guiding them,” she remembers. “There were a lot of people like me for whom [college] was such a foreign territory, who didn’t know who to navigate it. They steered me to looking at the possibility of going into social work.” Her dual degree in Social Work and Gerontology proved to be a tremendous asset. After graduation, Campos was a medical social worker for 15 years.
The following and successful career, shift, Campos said, was inspired by her own children. The new mother, at the time, began to reflect on her dream of working with children. “Originally, I wanted to be a teacher,” she explains. “In the process of putting together all the paperwork, a friend told me about this after school program for elementary students, LA’s Best. They were looking for somebody with public funding experience, a qualification I had as a home health care administrator.” She joined the organization in 1998. In her role as Director of Operations, she helped LA’s Best from 29 after school sites to 147, serving more than 23,000 children each day.
Partly because of her own childhood experiences, Campos moved to the Los Angeles chapter of After-School All-Stars, a national organization serving 72,000 youth annually through after school and summer program in 13 cities across the country. “After-School All-Stars is geared toward middle and high school students. I recognized that my middle school years were a turning point. That’s where I could have gone either way.” Since Campos became president and executive director in 2005, After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles has expanded from programs at four middle schools to 16 and now includes five high schools. Aside from the ever-present funding challenge that all non-profits share, Campos believes that frontline staff retention is a primary focus, as it is the staff which develops key relationships with the children. “Students initially come for the programs, but they stay for the staff. Another goal we have is to identify what captures the attention of older youth and solidify long-term partnerships that can that can bring those experiences and opportunities.”Campos wants to make clear that those who have succeeded, whatever the industry, also have a hand in supporting young people. “It’s terribly important that [Hispanic leaders] continue to be role models for Latino youth. That we give them the sum of our experiences—in terms of how we got where we are—so that they have a broader perspective of their future. That’s really a social obligation we all have.”