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Latino All Stars

Jose Quinonez

  • Gender: Male
  • University: Princeton University
  • University: University of California - Davis
  • Undergraduate Degree: Chicano Studies
  • Organization: Mission Asset Fund
  • Position Title: Chief Executive Officer

Mr. Quiñonez is one of five siblings, all born in Mexico. He was only two when calamity struck. First, his father was murdered. And just five years later, his mother died of lymphoma. With no one to look after them in Mexico, he and his siblings were split up and sent to live with various relatives in the US.

Growing up, he often worked at flea markets, in order to make enough money to eat. And, to add to his burdens, he lived in constant fear of being deported. His life took a sudden turn for the better when the Immigration Reform and Control Act was signed into law by then President Reagan. And with that, he set his sights on higher education.

He attended UC Davis, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Chicano Studies. From there, it was off to Princeton University, where he received his Master in Public Affairs in Development Studies.

He recalled in an article for the MIT Press Journals that he was 20 years old when he suddenly realized that his mother’s death was a direct consequence of poverty—that poor people like his mother, simply do not have access to decent healthcare. He says this realization gave him “empathy… for people who suffer and struggle in the world” and motivated him to dedicate his life to working against poverty.

In 2007, he helped found, and is today the CEO, of the Mission Asset Fund (MAF) in San Francisco. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to helping financially excluded communities – particularly low-income and immigrant families — to become visible, active, and successful participants in the U.S. financial mainstream. Through its programs, MAF helps participants overcome financial barriers through savings and credit-building opportunities.

Prior to joining MAF, Mr. Quiñonez held a number of roles in various organizations, including South Florida Lead Organizer for, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Community Change, and Domestic Policy Analyst at Bread for the World.

In addition to having served on the boards of the Credit Builders Alliance and the Opportunity Fund, he has also served on a number of advisory boards and councils, including those of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Experian, and Leader Spring.

He has also received numerous awards, including the Woodrow Wilson School’s Edward P. Bullard Distinguished Alumnus Award, the San Francisco Foundation’s 2014 Community Leadership Award, the James Irvine Foundation’s 2013 Irvine Leadership Award, and the Latino Leaders Maestro Award for Community Service. He was also recognized as an Ashoka Fellow and received the 2012 Aspen Institute Fellowship for Emerging Nonprofit Leaders.

Most recently, Mr. Quiñonez was selected as one of the 23 recipients of the prestigious MacArthur Fellows Program award. The annual program awards unrestricted fellowships – or “genius grants” – “to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.”

In an article for The Atlantic, he paints a picture of how people can make a difference in any field, as long as they have the right mindset. “I didn’t go to school to become a credit builder. I wanted to change the world,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to do that by being a loan servicer. But that’s real. Without access to credit, people’s dreams go unfulfilled.”