As the Policy Director, Anna “AJ” Johnson leads the implementation of California Competes’s policy agenda and policy-focused research activities including those related to adult education, cross-sector initiatives, postsecondary-workforce alignment, online education, statewide longitudinal data systems, and student parents’ needs.
Prior to joining California Competes, AJ was the Associate Director of Housing and Health at John Burton Advocates for Youth and a Senior Policy Associate at the National Center for Youth Law. In their time as an advocate, they advanced policies to improve the quality of life of children, youth, and young adults experiencing foster care, incarceration, poverty, and homelessness. Before attending policy school, AJ was an educator for 6 years at the Oakland Unified School District and the School District of Philadelphia.
They hold a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the University of California – Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy, an Urban Education degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and a BA in Social Welfare, Advocacy in Multicultural Settings from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
“Educators and mentors helped me survive and persist through times of hardship, envision a different future for myself and our communities, and grow into the person I am today. I know firsthand the benefits of supporting adult learners, like my mother, who received a Bachelors of Science in Nursing while raising three children. Tangible supports like child care, flexible class schedules, and direct financial assistance made it possible. For me, earning college credit while in high school helped give me earlier enrollment into the courses I needed to graduate on time, work-study helped me afford everyday expenses while gaining real-world experience, and campus housing offered me stability. I am excited to pay those investments forward by removing roadblocks to higher education and helping build career pathways for all Californians.“