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“Change the World from Here” MAF CEO José Quiñonez awarded an honorary degree from the University of San Francisco

Graduation season is in full swing and we are thrilled to share MAF CEO José Quinonez delivered an unforgettable commencement address to the University of San Francisco’s School of Management graduates on Friday, May 17, 2024. In recognition of his lifelong commitment to social justice, José also received an honorary degree from USF. 

Dr. Nicholas Tay introduced José, saying “Your leadership, advocacy, and innovative approaches targeting financial inequality, serve as beacons of hope and inspiration for our graduates, that all may know of our great esteem for your heroic efforts to dismantle systemic barriers that unfairly keep people in need from building financial security.”

Echoing USF’s motto, “Change the World, from Here,” José shared his personal journey as a changemaker, from his days leading student protests to his role in founding MAF to serve low-income and immigrant communities with access to financial tools.

MAF (Mission Asset Fund) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping low-income and immigrant communities achieve financial success. Through award-winning financial services and programs, MAF helps clients increase credit scores, reduce debt, and realize their dreams – from homeownership to starting their own business. 

He shared three key lessons in his address.

Lesson 1: Embrace Challenges

“Don’t ignore, look away, or try to forget the challenges, obstacles, and hardships in your life. They may be painful experiences to recall, but find the courage to face and reflect on each and every one of them—for they are the markers of your journey, pointing you toward your purpose in life.”  

During MAF’s early years, while the organization launched its first financial product, Lending Circles, legislation became a roadblock to the success of the program. MAF worked to advance legislation that made California the first state to regulate and recognize nonprofit lenders for providing zero-interest credit-building loans to under-resourced communities.

Lesson 2: Stay True to your Values 

“Don’t hold on to fleeting passions or dreams or get distracted by chasing false shiny objects. Stay true to your purpose and let your core values be your north star, illuminating your path forward. Believe that your path will naturally unfold before you with every step firmly, confidently, and faithfully taken.” 

MAF broke with conventional approaches to working with low-income communities and people facing poverty by centering their dignity and treating clients with respect. MAF’s values allow us to meet clients where they are, provide services that are relevant and timely, while harnessing the power of finance and technology. 

Lesson 3: Have the Courage to Make a Difference 

“Our own personal and individual achievements are not enough when the world is full of problems screaming for attention – problems from devastating wars to alarming climate change to crippling social inequality, poverty, hunger, homelessness, loneliness – all preventing people from flourishing into our God-given potential, from becoming who we are meant to be as human beings.”

Millions of people live under the current broken immigration system, unable to become visible, active, and successful in their financial lives. José, like millions of immigrants, personally experienced the obstacles they face and has dedicated his career to alleviating barriers and creating change. 

You can watch José’s full commencement address here

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“People are not buying homes. They’re not building their business,” said Mohan Kanungo, director of programs and engagement at Mission Asset Fund. “And that certainly has a large impact that I think remains to be seen for us to quantify.”

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MAF recently released a Financial Emergency Action Plan for Immigrants, which gives families and business owners practical tips about how to protect their assets in uncertain times.

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Responding to immigration enforcement

For those in the immigrant community, the numerous reports of raids by enforcement officials may give rise to a greater sense of fear. But those in the immigrant community can take precautionary measures to ensure the safety of their assets and belongings. Mohan Kanungo, director of programs & engagement at Mission Asset Fund, encouraged individuals to become more educated on “how to protect your money, how to protect your belongings, and creating and emergency plan.”

“Immigration related emergencies can have a significant impact on pocketbooks,” said Kanungo.

For instance, Kanungo said, the national average cost of a bail bond is about $10,000. In addition, having legal representation during these bond hearings can average anywhere from $3-5,000. Transfer of guardianship is about $2-4,000, and on top of these already high expenses, individuals involved in this process have other monthly bill payments to consider as well.

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If you find yourself (or someone you know) in this situation, or have come to learn what you can do, listen to our interview with Mohan Kanungo of MAF because this episode is for everyone.

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