SF State News {University Communications}

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Civil rights leader Lateefah Simon to keynote commencement

May 6, 2010 -- Civil rights advocate Lateefah Simon will be the keynote speaker at this year's Commencement. Simon has been fighting for social justice since her teenage years and at 26, she was one of the youngest people to be awarded a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship, which she received for her work with at-risk young women on the streets of San Francisco.

Photo of civil rights leader Lateefah Simon

Lateefah Simon

Born and raised in San Francisco's Western Addition neighborhood, Simon was 15 when she first volunteered at the Center for Young Women's Development, a program that helps homeless, low-income and incarcerated young women build healthier lives.

She quickly progressed from volunteer to leader and at 19, was appointed executive director of the Center, becoming one of the nation’s youngest leaders of a social service agency. Simon later worked for San Francisco district attorney Kamala D. Harris’s office where she helped launch new programs to provide formerly-incarcerated youth with educational and employment opportunities.

In 2009, Simon became executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, which advances the rights of communities of color, immigrants and refugees through litigation, policy advocacy and services such as legal clinics and pro bono legal representation. "San Francisco State University's commitment to social justice is unparalleled, and I am deeply honored to have been selected to speak on this important day," Simon said. "This is an exciting time for human rights -- one filled with promise and also fraught with challenges. I hope to inspire these graduates to use their brilliance to continue to commit themselves to making our world a better place. We need their contribution."

Simon has received numerous awards, including the Jefferson Award in 2007 for her community and public service. She was named "California Woman of the Year" by the California State Assembly in 2005. In 2009, she was one of 20 women included on Oprah Magazine's "Power List." She has served as a member of the board of directors of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the Women's Foundation of California.

For more information about SF State's 2010 Commencement, visit the SF State Commencement Web site.

-- Elaine Bible


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