Fueled by an intense passion for social justice, Marisol León used to write stories for Crossroads’ student newspaper, Crossfire, on issues of race, economic equality and global health. She also advocated for a non-Eurocentric perspective in the School’s history curriculum.
Later, as the paper’s editor-in-chief, she continued to diversify its coverage. “I felt I was coming from a different world, and I could offer that point of view,” says Marisol, now deputy attorney general with the California Department of Justice Civil Rights Enforcement Section.
Marisol arrived at Crossroads in the ninth grade through A Better Chance, a nonprofit that refers academically talented low-income students of color to private middle and high schools nationwide. Marisol remains grateful for the financial aid she received from Crossroads, which helped make her enrollment possible. “All kids are entitled to an education that will hone their critical thinking skills so they can engage with the world in a meaningful way,” she says.
Initially planning a journalism career, Marisol earned her bachelor’s from Yale, double majoring in ethnicity, race and migration and Latin American studies. While in Brazil to research social movements, she had an epiphany: she wanted to teach. After spending a year in Chiapas, Mexico, as a community energy and climate change organizer, she received a teaching credential and master’s in urban education at Loyola Marymount University. She taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District, but was a casualty of layoffs. Then an unexpected position opened up—at Crossroads.
She returned in 2009 as an English teacher and newspaper adviser. “It was a teacher’s dream,” she recalls, “a gift on so many levels.” She based her curriculum in part on her own conversations as a Crossroads student. Then, after two years, she decided to seek a bigger stage on which to change lives for the better.
In 2014, Marisol earned her law degree at the University of California, Berkeley, and joined the Attorney General’s Honors Program, where she is immersed in such hot-button issues as anti-human trafficking, police misconduct and immigration fraud. In 2017, she joined Crossroads’ Board of Trustees, and currently serves as executive vice chair. “The mission and values of Crossroads inform my work and relationships even now,” she says.