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Meet Laura Capello of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona

Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Capello.

Laura, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I moved to Phoenix from Rockford, Illinois right after High School and married and started a family fairly young. When I decided to finally enroll for college, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do; be a sports reporter!! So with that in mind, I graduated in exactly 4 years from the Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU with exactly the number of credits I needed! I was ready to get on with my career and did not want to waste one more minute!! But after graduation and as I was out exploring different career options, it wasn’t sports that held my interest as much as it was helping others, and that lead is what ultimately let me to the nonprofit sector and my first job as Public Relations Manager for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central AZ (BBBSAZ). That was in 1998 and I spent the next seven years there before leaving to pursue other adventures. By then I was the VP of Marketing and I was ready to move on and explore other opportunities.

I ended up doing some consulting work for other organizations and businesses and then landed another full time job at ASU at their School for Nonprofit Innovation and Philanthropy (now knows as the ASU Lodestar Center). I led a leadership program and supported their marketing efforts for the next 4 years and then in 2011 I was enticed back to BBBSAZ by their newest CEO. It had been more than six years since I had worked for the agency and I have to admit it took a lot of soul searching for me to finally make the decision to return, it ultimately was the passion I had for the mission that brought me back and then 18 months later, I was hired as their CEO. While it was never a job I envisioned for myself, it was one I was excited to tackle and more than 5 years later, I have never regretted my decision.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
No it absolutely has not been a smooth road, anything but. I don’t think I have ever chosen the easy road, but I believe that ever decision I have made, both good and bad, as led me to where I am now. Having a family in my early twenties was not how I had pictured things going, but that is what happened. And I graduated with my degree shortly after I had my third child. I still remember trying to fit into those little desks being 9 months pregnant!!

Deciding to work in the nonprofit sector is so rewarding, but it is not the easiest path and not for the weak of heart. But I truly cannot imagine doing anything else. Every job has its challenges, but for me to know at the end of each day that I made a difference is not something I take for granted and at times, it is the only thing that keeps me going.

My first year as a new CEO was one of the toughest years of my life. The agency had many challenges and it took all my strength to go to work each day. I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders and if it were not for an amazing support system, I might not have last a year. Once I was able to put the right team in place, things got much better. My board grew stronger as did my internal staff. I also grew as a leader and continued to learn and grow. I have always felt that you have to live outside your comfort zone in order to learn and grow and I definitely have done that most of my life, whether intentional or not!!

Please tell us about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona.
For more than 60 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life. Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, professionally supported matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 6 through 18, in Maricopa County and Pinal County. We develop positive relationships that have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people. Please consider being a volunteer mentor or making a gift to help children in our community who need and deserve mentors build self-confidence and realize their potential.

What makes us different than other mentoring agencies is that we focus on the one to one relationship between our volunteers and kids. And because of the support they receive from our agency and the program specialist, we are able to create many long term matches that end up being in each other’s lives for years. We also recently hired a community navigator in order to support the families of the kids we serve. We do this by partnering with other nonprofit agencies that support families by providing services that they are needing. By doing this, we can ensure greater success for the children and matches we support.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I think about this question often as I always look back on things I didn’t do and wonder how my life would have been. However, I also see now how everything kind of fell in place and worked out the way it was supposed too so I am not sure if I would have done things any differently. But I guess if I could do something differently, it would have been to go to college right after high school and enjoy more of the college experience. Since I had my family young, I didn’t go back to school until I was in my late twenties, and I wasn’t able to do as much or get involved with campus activities because I already had so many responsibilities. I also would have taken more business classes as I think knowing more about business earlier on would have been very helpful.

Contact Info:

  • Address: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona
    4745 N 7th Street, Suite 210
    Phoenix AZ, 85014
  • Website: www.bbbsaz.org
  • Phone: 602-393-4128
  • Email: lcapello@bbbsaz.org
  • Other: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central AZ

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