Lateefah Simon, 33, has advocated tirelessly on behalf of communities of color, youth and women since her teenage years. At age 15, she joined the Center for Young Women's Development, an outreach organization led by young women to provide peer-to-peer support to at-risk girls and young women in San Francisco. Simon began as a volunteer and eventually became a staff member at the Center, where she worked to help homeless, low-income and incarcerated young women transform and rebuild their lives.
At 19, Simon was appointed Executive Director of the Center. During her 11-year tenure, the Center for Young Women’s Development grew into an organization with a $1.2 million budget serving approximately 3,500 women per year. Under Simon’s leadership, the Center also worked to influence public policy at the state and local levels, and expanded its violence prevention work. At 26, Simon won a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship for her work with the Center.
In 2005, Simon was chosen by San Francisco District Attorney Kamala D. Harris to lead the creation of a citywide public/private partnership aimed at preventing former offenders from returning to lives of crime. From the D.A.’s office, Simon helped launch and oversaw programs such as Back on Track, which combines close supervision for offenders with educational and employment opportunities. Now a national model, Back on Track has reduced the recidivism rate for the population it serves to less than 10 percent.
In 2009, Simon was appointed Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, which advocates for the legal rights of people of color, poor people, immigrants and refugees. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of San Francisco is an affiliate of the national Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a non-partisan organization created in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to engage the private bar in addressing racial discrimination.