Ezekiel Campos is all about people: How we serve them, learn from them, and how we, as people, love each other.
The senior social work major is one of Point Loma Nazarene University’s 2021 Homecoming Rising Alumni Award winners for his sacrificial servitude and his overwhelming demonstration of powerful cultural competency. “You can’t do everything,” Campos says. “You just do the best you can, and if you did your best, then that’s all you can do.”
His passion for helping others was always there, he says. Campos’ little sister has special needs, so he recalls growing up volunteering at San Diego’s Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego. To him, that’s where it began. Opportunities in college only bloomed that passion further.
After receiving a scholarship, he chose PLNU for its community-like atmosphere. Small class sizes and more one-on-one time with professors are what made him feel like he could truly succeed. “It was a blessing in disguise,” he said. He went on to say these last four years were transformative into the man he’s becoming. Multiple weekly ministry endeavors — like tutoring kids from varying socio-economic backgrounds or passing out meals downtown — allowed him to step outside of the “Loma Bubble” more often and see the heartbreaking realities of the real world. Those experiences played a major role in Campos realizing there’s more to life than the seemable picture-perfect seaside campus.
“I feel like I have changed a lot since my beginning, my first year,” he said. “Through my experiences and what I’ve learned — especially what I’ve learned — I feel like I really have grown up.” Campos confessed that he struggled with the balancing act of seeing the hardships that the community faced off-campus and comparing it to the constant, elevated joy that seemed to always surround him on-campus. “It was frustrating for me because I’m like, ‘Do you know there’s a bigger world out there?’” he asked. “There’s a lot of pain and a lot of hardship out there, and I had a really hard time with that; it hurt me.”
Entering PLNU, Campos originally declared to be a business major as a sense of security, he says, but the idea of crunching numbers all day became daunting. The calling for social work continued to pull at him. It wasn’t until his junior year that he made the switch — after co-leading ALIMS Children & Youth Ministry, a tutoring program for East African refugee children in City Heights. “It changed me,” he said. “I’m glad I went to social work because it made me more empathetic and made me more understanding and less narrow minded … It changed my perspective on everything.”
“I’m glad I went to social work because it made me more empathetic and made me more understanding and less narrow minded … It changed my perspective on everything.”
Campos lights up when he speaks about volunteering and serving kids within the San Diego community. “I love the kiddos. It’s so pure; it’s like a love and it’s genuine,” he added. Campos also spent his time with at-risk students at Coronado’s Monarch School through their Rollin’ From the Heart after-school program, where he’d bond with them through skateboarding. He stands by the fact that people are people — regardless of age or circumstance — and it’s in our nature to want connection. “There’s always going to be problems and there’s always going to be hardships going on, but if you do your little part of being there for someone, it could be impactful,” he said. “It could be life-changing showing them that ‘Someone cares about you and someone’s here for you.’” He attributes the social work and sociology department professors for giving him the confidence to continue to make his mark on the world. “You don’t have to change the whole world. I have a hard time with this because I want to fix everything — I think it’s the social worker in me — but there are some things that just aren’t able to be fixed,” he explains. “But if you tried your best and you’re building that relationship, then you can make a difference in one life. That’s all that matters. You did a good job.”
The coronavirus pandemic has him changing course on whether to go to graduate school right away, but he remains optimistic at the multitude of options his degree will offer. He’s eager to jump directly into the real work of making a difference for people. “That’s the reason we’re here,” he interjects. “We’re here to provide a service. We’re here to serve them to the best of our abilities, so that they can thrive.” Currently, Campos is interning at the Jewish Family Services of San Diego serving older adults within the aging and wellness division. (“It’s a complete polar opposite of working with kids, I’ll tell you that,” he joked.) He loves working with them because, just like with kids, he sees an entirely different perspective than his own. Within the center, he’s built a little community, and they have socially-distant group meetings or discuss current event topics via Zoom.
“We’re here to provide a service. We’re here to serve them to the best of our abilities so that they can thrive.”
When asked to describe his dream job, he sheepishly asked, “Can I have more than one?” In order to combine his passions for the youth and the older adult communities, he’d love to work with both. For underprivileged kids, Campos says, he’d love to provide a safe place to enjoy the outdoors. Whether it be hiking, skateboarding, or surfing, he’d want to break down the barriers that block certain activities from being experienced due to circumstance. He hopes to play a part in that spark between a kid and a new activity. They’d be able to take in “the therapeutic beauty of just walking around.” He took a deep breath and said, “It’s like true freedom.”
As for the older adults community, the pandemic had him consciously exploring the tech space for elders, and the gap that’s prevalent between the two. “I would love to get older adults computers,” he said, enthusiastically. “Then I’d teach them how to use the computers so that they can stay connected.”
Ezekiel Campos is all about people. Building a community that allows people to thrive just as they are is what he’s about. Regardless of what dream he decides to pursue first, it’s clear that the mission of servanthood will be front of mind: “I just want to tell people, ‘Here I am. If you need me, I’m here, and I’m here to help in whatever way I can.”
Ezekiel Campos has also been honored with a 2021 PLNU Homecoming Rising Alumni Award. To learn more, visit the PLNU Homecoming website.