OneJustice Blog

Bring life-changing legal help to Californians in need.

Yvonne Mariajimenez: pursuing justice and developing leaders

Yvonne Mariajimenez  headshotYvonne’s experience growing up in poverty taught her to be an advocate.

Now a statewide and national leader, she empowers others, as well.

Please join the rest of the OneJustice network to celebrate Yvonne and her many accomplishments on:

Thursday July 25th
6:oo pm to 9:00 pm
Julia Morgan Ballroom (downtown San Francisco)

Tickets are now available at the Opening Doors to Justice website, where you can also preview the awesome silent auction items and make a donation to the Justice Bus.  We caught up with Yvonne recently and asked her some pre-event questions!

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Yvonne, why have you committed so much of your professional career to working on access to justice?

My work is my vocation, and very personal to me.  I was born into and raised in poverty.   My sister, brother and I were raised by our mother, a single parent, who was afflicted with mental illness.  I learned very early in life to advocate for justice for my mother.  I broke out of the cycle of poverty because of my teachers and mentors; during my high school years, they told me I would go to college after having grown up thinking I could not because I was poor.

I have been blessed with education and opportunity and it is very important that I, too, work to ensure others have doors opened for them as they were opened for me.  Not a day goes by that I do not feel satisfaction and the comfort of knowing I have helped someone in need, that I have mentored and encouraged others as I was mentored and encourage, and that I am developing leaders who will work as I have done to make this world a better place.

 What is one particularly rewarding experience you have had in your work on access to justice?

There are many, but in the recent past, it has to be the work on which I collaborated with colleagues and community on stemming the tide of foreclosures and helping families with homeownership capacity keep their homes.

A short story:  One evening at a community meeting of about 200 people with whom we had been working on workforce development, a woman raised her hand and asked if we could talk about foreclosures;  I asked who in the room was affected so and just about everyone rose their hands.  We immediately went into training mode, taught families to read and understand their loan documents, and they realized they had been victims of predatory lending.  They organized and through a community strategy brought the banks into our community to negotiate face to face mortgage modifications to help families keep their homes.

Fast forward 7 months:  another community meeting run entirely by homeowners who had been working with us and had saved their homes.  One of the women leaders addressed the audience of 100 families and said, “Seven months ago I was sitting were you are now, ashamed, desperate and ill with stress because I was losing my home.  Through legal aid, I learned about the loans we had been given and why I was losing my home. I was trained on financial literacy and how to negotiate with the banks; I became a leader.  My home has been saved and I will work with you until your homes are saved.  Because of the training and help we receive from legal aid, our community will never be taken advantage of like this again!”  I sat back and thought to myself—this is why I do what I do!  Pursing justice and developing leaders who will continue to do so long after I am gone.

What is your favorite part of being a part of the OneJustice network?

My favorite part of being a membYvonne Mariajimenez Executive Fellows 2012er of the OneJustice network is the quality of leaders and mentors I have gotten to meet and know and call my friends.  Our non-profit law firms have brought about legal challenges and policy work that has ensured justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.  To gather and convene these organizations under the OneJustice network helps institutionalize the best practices and continue to train good lawyers that ensures the pursuit of justice.

The OneJustice Fellowship Program is probably the best CEO/leadership training I have ever had!  The caliber and quality of the faculty equals that of the most prestigious management training programs in this country.  The program’s quality and success is measured by the promotions of and executive director positions taken by many of its graduates.  The program has developed many effective leaders who will no doubt develop others.

Historically, Legal Services was often threatened with defunding.  Today, I believe legal services is here to stay, the real question is, how good and effective are we going to be?  The OneJustice program equipped me to lead a premier but ever changing non-profit law firm whose advocates change lives and transform communities because of their outstanding legal work.  It has done the same for so many other legal services leaders who will no doubt continue to significantly improve the economic status of poor and low income families throughout California.

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Thank you, Yvonne, for your fierce dedication to excellence and your outstanding contributions to ensuring justice for those in need.  We are honored to collaborate with you, and we are thrilled to be recognizing your achievements later this month!

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