Stand's Chief of State Operations, Shannon Campion, has been with us for 14 years and is one of our longest-serving staff members. In honor of our 20th anniversary, we spoke to her about her history at Stand and how she views its evolution.
Tell us a little bit about your history at Stand.
Where to begin! I had finished graduate school and just returned from teaching English in Southeast Asia when I received an offer in in the spring of 2002 to be an organizer in Portland. It was an exciting time working on our key priority to pass the Portland Children’s Investment Fund, a property tax levy that funded early childhood education, child abuse prevention, and after-school programs in the city of Portland. It was a huge campaign for us; we engaged over 25,000 voters, and the initiative passed. I experienced firsthand how harnessing the power of people to make change drove real impact for kids in Portland, and I was hooked.
When I moved to be the Portland City Director, we worked on a variety of campaigns - from a county-wide income tax that increased the amount money for schools, to advocating for strong teacher effectiveness policies, to running a big campaign to improve the quality of after-school programming.
I loved working in Portland, but in 2007 I jumped on the opportunity to move to Seattle to start our Washington state affiliate, which I ran for 6 years. Seeing strong advances in how we fund our schools, to passing Academic Acceleration, to establishing public charter schools for the first time (among many other accomplishments), it was a time of immense growth for Stand and for me.
In my current role as Chief of State Operations, I work with Executive Directors in five of our 11 state offices to help build strong Stand affiliates to impact even more kids across the country.
How has your perspective on the education arena changed throughout your roles?
I’m an optimistic person by nature, so I do believe that there are places where we are making real progress in education across the US - places where Stand is involved and places where we aren’t. I will say that through my time working on this issue, I’ve grown more aware of the challenges and the incredible effort it takes to try to improve a public education system or school district from all the different factors at play - factors such as the appointed leadership in the district, having an aligned school board, having the right conditions in the city or state to allow those people to succeed, trying to make sure they stay long enough to make something happen, and that the next people who come in continue that vision. It truly takes a village.
What attracted you to Stand, and what keeps you going here?
I was super attracted to Stand because of the way we organize and activate parents – helping people build their own power personally and then collectively with others and then using that power to help kids - that was incredibly attractive to me.
And I love that we are a bold, courageous organization willing to push the envelope. We don’t shy away from getting right to the heart of what is best for kids, whether that’s at the local or state level. We’re an organization that jumps into that arena very strategically to create better conditions for the kids in the district or the state.
What is Stand’s biggest strength?
Our biggest strength is our talent. One of the other reasons I’ve been here so long is that there are really incredible people throughout the organization at all levels. When I think about the work that happens in the states, it doesn’t happen without savvy, strategic, determined staff who can read the landscape in their states and cities really well, know what kind of issues to work on where they can have the greatest impact, and build the right relationships.
What are the biggest ways Stand has evolved over 20 years?
We’ve gone from supporting a handful of people in a few states to creating a national organization that drives strong outcomes for kids with enough flexibility to be responsive to the local context but still stick to the core mission and expectations of Stand.
What is your favorite Stand moment/story?
That’s hard to pick! I can’t claim I wasn’t forewarned about Jonah’s intensity – when I applied for the Portland organizer job in 2002, he called me and asked to interview right at that moment; it was 6pm and I was having dinner with my mom, so I asked him if we could talk the next morning. Those were the days before we had a Talent team.
Then there’s the ‘all-staff’ meetings we used to have from Jonah’s home office when there were about 8 of us around the country. We’ve come so far!
I’ll never forget Deloris Moss – a grandparent who was a Team Leader at one of our church teams in Portland. She is a strong and opinionated woman but she had not been politically active before. She was reluctant to see herself as a leader at first, but through Stand, she became one of our strongest volunteer leaders – she absorbed our trainings and could play so many leadership roles – she could run phone banks, lead strategy team meetings, lead canvasses, help coordinate a rally. Best of all she learned to love lobbying. Her state representative become our House Speaker and she would march into his office and talk to him about our issues. The way she embraced her political power and used it to help students always inspired me and has stuck with me.