2023 Awardee

Laura Valdez

Executive Director, Dolores Street Community Services

Laura Valdez (they/she/ella) is the Executive Director of Dolores Street Community Services (DSCS), which has been building community resilience and driving social change in the Mission District of San Francisco for over 40 years. DSCS invests in the rights and collective power of low-income and immigrant communities through a diverse range of critical direct services, including emergency shelter and housing, immigration legal services and advocacy, medical care, health education and system navigation, food and rental assistance, workforce development and more. DCSC’s wide-ranging operation employs more than 130 staff.  

Laura is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and grew up in El Paso, Texas. Her father was deported when she was five years old and the family was reliant on her mother’s earnings as a domestic worker. These painful and unstable times led to Laura’s family experiencing homelessness, food insecurity, and deep trauma from being separated from their father. Her lived experience at the intersection of multiple oppressions as a gender queer Latinx person motivates her to address inequities and provides perspective and motivation to support the most vulnerable and marginalized in our communities. Laura’s leadership style mirrors this purpose, and she strives to create an organizational culture that is trauma-informed, inclusive, affirming, and healing. She has served as Executive Director to five nonprofits, including the Border Rights Coalition at the age of 24, where she worked on the community, state, and national fight against the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.  

Laura has never had an opportunity to take a sabbatical leave in her career, and her incredible commitment, discipline, and never-ending energy for her work has come at a cost. As she says, “I am running on empty some days and this opportunity for rest, renewal, and reflection is something that I truly believe can help me continue to be present and mindful as I continue my work at DSCS.”