Homeless from the ages of 14-23. In and out of group foster homes. Domestic abuse survivor.
Considering the circumstances, Angelina Campos would probably not have been voted “Most Likely to Succeed.”
Then again, many of the best success stories started at the bottom.
Campos was raised by a schizophrenic mother and an undocumented father, until she was put under the care of her grandparents at age 10.
For four years, Campos was forbidden any contact with her father.
At age 14, Campos wanted to visit her father in Mexico, who was in a coma and did not have long to live. Still, her grandparents would not let her visit him.
“Frankly, that just wasn’t something that I was willing to accept,” says Campos.
So with the knowledge that she was forfeiting her home and would not be welcomed back, Campos set off on her own and was able to say a final farewell to her father before he passed away.
That decision set Campos up for what would be nearly a decade of living life primarily on the streets and an on-and-off-again relationship with alcohol and drugs.
Campos became pregnant with her first son at 19 years old.
Pregnancy is already one of the toughest things the female body can go through – being pregnant and homeless at the same time requires an entirely different level of determination, especially considering the homeless aren’t typically welcomed into business establishments with open arms. Some city areas have laws about sitting on the sidewalk.
“The more pregnant you get, you have to go to the bathroom frequently,” says Campos, “and nobody even lets you use the bathroom. So what do you do?”
After giving birth to her first son, Campos, who was struggling with depression and a bipolar disorder at the time, was faced with one of the most difficult decisions she would ever have to make.
“Given my background and being homeless for so long, I really didn’t feel confident in my abilities to raise a child,” says Campos.
Her son was put up for open adoption. Today, she gets to enjoy a relationship with her son, although he is not aware that Campos is his biological mother.
“Looking back now, I feel like if I’d felt like I had more support back then, I probably could have done [raised her son], but at that point I probably did what I thought would be easier or best for the baby.”
Soon after putting her son up for adoption, Campos entered into about a two-year long relationship that would make her a domestic abuse survivor.
“I was basically getting assaulted at least every month.”
During this relationship, Campos gave birth to her second son, but this time she lost the baby at 6 months old to sudden infant death syndrome.
Although Campos struggled with alcohol and drug abuse during her time on the streets, she says she never partook in substance abuse while she was pregnant or during her time raising her children.
After the loss of her baby, Campos’ life was a downward spiral.
“After that, I just lost the motivation or the will to keep going forward and doing anything positive in my life.”
It wasn’t until 2011 when she reconnected with the former high school sweetheart, who would become her husband, that her outlook began to brighten. Together, the couple began reconstructing their lives. They married in 2016 and have two children.
“He was willing to take that step with me towards putting in work… toward achieving a goal,” says Campos about her husband, Jordon Thaw, “which is something that not a lot of people have that willingness to do.”
Today, Campos is thriving in the new life she’s created for herself.
She is working with the nonprofit organization Promises2Kids, which responds to the needs of current and former foster children, such as herself.
“What I really like about our Guardian Scholars program is that it gives foster youth the tools they need to change their life,” says Tonya Torosian, CEO of Promises2Kids. “The program offers financial scholarships, along with mentor support to assist youth in adapting and excelling in a higher education setting.”
This past June, Campos graduated from Mesa College where she obtained her associate’s degree in English, psychology, sociology and social behavioral sciences. She is currently attending UC San Diego, where she is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in literature and writing.
Her goal is to become a university professor.
“Angelina is a phenomenal student, mother, and advocate for youth that have chosen to thrive in dire circumstances,” says Torosian. “Her commitment to her education has earned her the respect of the Guardian Scholars program as we will continue to support her as she builds a legacy for herself and her children."