Cristy Johnston Limón has always sought to advance positive change—as a teenager seeking alternatives to gangs, as a young activist advocating for affordable housing in San Francisco, as a first-generation college student studying political science at UC Berkeley, and as an executive MBA student at Haas.
The daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, Limón is executive director of Youth Speaks, an arts organization providing a platform for young people to ignite positive change through spoken word.
In short, Limón helps give others a voice. “I’m using every skill I learned at Haas to advance social justice through the arts, centering youth voices and narratives to make lasting change for the better,” she says. “I knew an MBA could open doors for my social impact work, but I didn’t account for other young men and women, particularly young people of color, being inspired by my journey.”
Her work doesn’t stop in the Bay Area. Recently, she volunteered for the CARA Pro Bono Legal Project, which works with lawyers and translators to help asylum-seeking mothers at the border prepare for their “credible fear interviews,” the first step in a lengthy process to seek asylum from violence and persecution in their native countries.
The majority of the women were Central American. “As a Guatemalan who speaks the language and understands our cultural norms, I was able to build rapport and trust quickly with the mothers, some of whom were struggling with the trauma of migration and having been separated from their children [at the border],” Limón says. “I’ve never felt more proud of my linguistic and cultural fluency than when I discovered that all of the women I worked with were granted asylum and have a fighting chance to start a better life in this country. Isn’t that what we all want?”