Newcomer is Making Her Mark Mentoring Youth and Chairing Edina Challenge

Edina Challenge chairwoman Erica Campbell mentors an Edina student at Southdale YMCA.

Erica Campbell believes in roots—creating them and tending to their growth. When she moved in July 2015 to Edina from the Washington, D.C., area with her husband, Ian, and their two children, she didn’t waste time. Campbell joined a church, began mentoring a middle school girl and had a fortuitous meeting that led her to land feet-first as chairwoman of Edina Challenge, which helps in-need Edina youth through a consortium of city government entities and nonprofit organizations.

“I knew I needed to find something here to get my roots deeper,” Campbell says. While this New York native enjoyed the vibe of the nation’s capital, her husband hails from Edina and knew this community was a better fit for raising and educating their daughter and son. “We know this is such an incredible community for education,” Campbell says. “I have to admit it, I’m loving it so far.”

Not long after this young family arrived in Edina, Upper Room Church hosted a talk, featuring One2One, which offers mentoring programs for youth. Campbell was inspired by the presentation, and she soon began mentoring a middle school girl through One2One. During an event recognizing the mentors’ efforts, Campbell connected with Dick Crockett, Edina Community Foundation executive director, who encouraged her to serve as chairwoman of Edina Challenge, which is an extension of the foundation.

“It’s a wonderful fit for us,” Crockett says of Campbell’s ability to step into the post, and he points to her volunteer work and her position as the global head of behavioral change for the British Embassy. No stranger to supporting community causes, Campbell served for 15 years on the board of Virginia-based Special Love, a nonprofit organization that provides families with cancer a network of support. In her career, Campbell addresses changes in work behaviors of the embassy’s 14,000 world-wide employees while maintaining workplace efficiency and effectiveness, all of which she can draw upon for her work with Edina Challenge. “My strengths and talents are best used when serving others,” Campbell says. “This is a natural extension of my experiences.”

Led by the Edina Community Foundation, the mission of the Edina Challenge is to assist Edina children in need, helping them utilize community programs and resources. Campbell is charged with facilitating collaboration among the group’s 12 partners. Campbell says Edina Challenge has pinpointed four objectives for its program. It seeks to offer mentorship opportunities, financial assistance for extracurricular activities, resources for stable housing and links to transportation.

Edina residents might not be aware of the needs faced by too many children in the community. According to best estimates, Crockett explains that there are between 700 and 750 school-age community children who live in or near poverty. The figure comes from the number of Edina Public School students who receive free or reduced-rate meals. (The net doesn’t capture children who have yet to enter or have aged out of the school system, haven’t applied for meal assistance or don’t attend public school, for example.)

Regardless, Campbell calls the figures “eye-opening,” adding, “We need to make sure we are looking after all our children,” she says. Campbell illustrates the sentiment by quoting President John F. Kennedy—“A rising tide lifts all boats.”