Fast 15: Ana Claudia Aguayo

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Ana Claudia Aguayo arrived in Northwest Arkansas with her family in 1997 as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. She was 8 years old, and didn’t speak one word of English.

By the time she was 25, not only was Aguayo fluent in English, she was a conscientious student and a passionate advocate — and she was representing the governor of Arkansas.

It’s just one example of the leadership and service that have been at the heart of Aguayo’s professional accomplishments, all traced back to her personal experience growing up in Springdale.

“This community really came together to help raise the person I am today,” she said. “I was profoundly impacted by role models, and that’s where my desire and passion to connect and drive community comes from.”

Aguayo was hired at Crystal Bridges in January to help provide strategy for the membership program, serving approximately 8,000 member households across the country. She said her goal is to build access to the museum and grow the next generation of arts supporters.

Aguayo previously served as external affairs liaison for former Gov. Mike Beebe, focusing on Hispanic outreach.

Aguayo, a 2011 University of Arkansas graduate with a double major in journalism and international relations, was prepared for her role in the governor’s office thanks to her work for the Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center, a grant-funded nonprofit in Springdale dedicated to assiting low-wage and immigrant workers.

She joined the organization in 2008 as a volunteer and went on to fill a variety of roles, including being elevated to interim executive director.

Her work there was recognized in 2013 when she and her brother, Jose Luis Aguayo, were given the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award, established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in recognition of people ages 18 to 30 who work to end poverty and injustice.

Aside from her professional accomplishments, Aguayo also enjoys learning languages (currently focusing on French and Portuguese), is an avid runner and wants to travel the world.

“I see myself growing [through] nonprofit management and leadership,” she said. “Nonprofits have such strong capacities to have a direct impact, and doing international aid through that kind of work is a long-term goal.”