Cristina Huezo is a Director at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI). As a part of our Member Spotlight Series, Cristina spoke to NCG's Communications Manager, Kayla Ballard about being a Bay Area Native, Run TMC, the CZI Community Fund, and why she is on a mission to create pathways to the American Dream.
KB: Can you tell me a little bit about your role at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative? Are you new to the team?
CH: I’ve been with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) since its founding in 2015. Our mission is to build a more inclusive, just, and healthy future for everyone. We’re doing that by helping solve some of the world’s toughest challenges – from eradicating disease, to improving education, to reforming the criminal justice system.
I lead CZI’s Community team, which supports our commitment to our community here in the Bay Area. My team builds partnerships to support the work of local leaders and organizations who are tackling the most pressing challenges in the communities where they live and work.
I’m a Bay Area native and love my community. It’s a privilege to come to work every day to celebrate and support this amazing community we share.
KB: Why is community a focus for CZI? What types of programming are you leading to support the community?
CH: San Mateo County is our home and we believe our mission starts here. We are proud to support and learn from local organizations and leaders in their work to create a brighter future from everyone in our community.
Our Community team has a few key initiatives, including: partnerships and giving in and around Redwood City, where CZI is headquartered; strategic programming to support homeless youth, children, and families in the region; and a local responsive grantmaking program we call the CZI Community Fund.
KB: Can you share more about the CZI Community Fund?
CH: Absolutely. The CZI Community Fund is an annual grantmaking fund that supports organizations in Belle Haven, East Palo Alto, North Fair Oaks, and Redwood City to address basic and most urgent needs identified by local communities. Since its launch in 2017, the Community Fund has supported my than 60 organizations in their critical work.
Previous grant recipients have included groups running after-school programs for children, providing warm meals and shelter, and advocating for sustainable and inclusive community development.
We launched our request for applications for the third annual CZI Community Fund on August 13 and are encouraging local organizations and groups to apply.
KB: You've spent your career working in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. Has this always been your interest? When you were a child, what did you dream of doing professionally?
CH: I studied international development in college and had big plans to work abroad and contribute to eliminating global poverty. But I quickly came to realize that there was significant need right here at home. My father, an immigrant from El Salvador, came to this country in search of the American Dream. While our family was able to thrive, the dream is no longer within reach for so many families who took the same path.
From my time at UnidosUS fighting on behalf of Latinx and immigrant families to philanthropy working to support nonprofit organizations in our community, I have spent the last 20 years on a mission to help people like my father realize their dreams.
KB: You’re a lifelong resident of the Bay Area and you are now raising your family here. What does community mean to you?
CH: The Bay Area has always been home to me. I grew up watching Run TMC and now get to relive the glory days with my kids watching the Splash Brothers!
Whether it’s the Bay Area or elsewhere, community is about knowing the history, the people, the culture, and feeling as though they are all woven together to create a fabric that makes everyone stronger. It’s about neighbors having a sense of shared responsibility, and from that responsibility comes the power of community to make a difference.
It’s because of the power of community that I am hopeful about the future, not just for my children, but for all mothers and fathers who have dreams for their children.
KB: Where can other NCG members find more information about the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the CZI Community Fund?
Do you have questions for Cristina or ideas for collaboration? You can contact her at: