Meet Campagna Center's New President

Meet Campagna Center's New President

The new president of the Campagna Center is getting ready for her first Scottish Walk as she answers questions in her corner office on the third floor of the Campagna Center's landmark headquarters in the old Lancaster School on Washington Street.

"No I haven't been to a Scottish Walk," Hughes said, glancing toward one of her colleagues out of the corner of her eye. "No, I don't have a kilt, but I'm trying to find some plaid."

One of her staff members loaned her a videotape of a previous Scottish Walk so she could see the distinctive nature of the annual event. Hosted by the Scottish Walk has grown from an informal parade in the early 1970s to a modern-day weekend-long festival honoring kilts, dogs, children and clans. Hughes suspects that the popularity of the Scottish Walk has eclipsed the Campagna Center's involvement in it.

"It's evident that we have somewhat of a branding issue," said Hughes, who became president on Oct. 9. "People will say that they have been to the parade and they've never heard of the Campagna Center. Some people know the building very well, but don't know anything about what we do here."

WHAT'S IN A NAME? For Karen Hughes, a lot. She says that she has endured many late-night phone calls from people seeking council from President Bush's former communications director. The Campagna's Hughes keeps a picture in her office of the day the she met Bush on a shelve in her office.

"When I met the president, I told him I was Karen Hughes," she said, looking at the framed snapshot. "He told me that he didn't know that there was room for two of them."

The name Campagna also brings a sense of familiarity. The Campagna Center is a child-centered nonprofit agency, running programs like Head Start, Early Head Start, Campagna Kids, Wright to Read, the Campagna Learning Center and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. But Hughes thinks that the 60-year-old organization is in need of some kind of image makeover.

"I want people to know us as a brand name,"Hughes said. "I want people to put together the Scottish Walk and the building together in their minds with what we do here."

CAMPAGNA PROVIDES educational and developmental programming for more than 1,500 children each day at 65 sites across the city. It was founded in 1945 as the Alexandria Young Women's Christian Association, separated from the national YWCA structure in the 1970s when it became known the Alexandria Community Y. In 1989, it was renamed the Campagna Center to honor Elizabeth Anne Campagna, the executive director who led the center from 1961 to 1981. During that time, Campagna transformed the organization into a nonprofit powerhouse, one with a prominent location at the old Lancaster School, a building known to countless generations of students as a schoolhouse from 1889 to 1954. The centerpiece of Campagna's personal legacy is the Head Start Program, which she arranged for her organization to administer when it was created by President Lyndon Johnson in the late 1960s.

"Any other non-profit could have come forward and said that they wanted to run Head Start, but the Campagna Center was the only one way back then that did," said former City Manager Vola Lawson, a close personal friend of Campagna and a current member of the center's board of directors. "From the beginning, they possessed not only the administrative ability to run it, but the ability to attract good people to work in the program and to go to the general community to help raise funds."

The organization's evolving purpose can be illustrated by its changing mission statement, which began as "putting down sturdy roots in the real needs of the women of this booming community."Today, as Hughes takes the helm, the statement has changed: "The Campagna Center strengthens families and creates safe havens where children can flourish. We draw together the resources of the Alexandria community to provide programs that help children become productive adults."

A NATIVE of Fort Worth, Texas, Hughes received a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and a master's degree in educational management from the University of Houston Clear Lake. She and her husband reside in Accokeek, Md., and are members of First Baptist Church in Alexandria.

She comes to the Campagna Center from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, where she was chief operating officer. At the Washington-based association for those involved with early childhood education, Hughes oversaw a review of membership practices, bylaws, governance and organizational development. One of her strategies was to start a call center for customer service.

"I wanted all the calls going to the same place," she said. "Customer service is a passion of mine."

Her career began in 1980, when she taught Kindergarten at Galena Park Independent School District. Over the years she has owned a preschool business, organized strategic restructuring plans and become a nationally recognized speaker on a number of topics: strategic thinking, change management, customer service and effective leadership.

"She is remarkably credentialed with a career dedicated to quality education for children," said Lindsay Hutter, chairwoman of Campagna's board of directors. "We are thrilled to have someone of her highly relevant experience serving as our new president and CEO."