Sara Peña, was born, raised and educated in Newark, New Jersey. Her mother was born in Ecuador and her father in Dominican Republic. She is the Director of the Center for Hispanic Policy, Research and Development in the Department of State. Ms. Peña has two decades of initiating and delivering sustained results across a wide range of industries including healthcare and government.
She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Management from Kean University and her Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Rutgers University in Newark. She was inducted into the National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration, Pi Alpha Alpha and a proud sister of the first multicultural sorority at Kean University, Mu Sigma Upsilon Sorority, Inc.
Ms. Peña was twice named NJ’s INSIDER 100:POLICY-MAKERS POWER LIST for her work leading the Center. During her tenure, the New Jersey Center for Hispanic Policy, Research and Development in the Department of State has been widely-lauded for expanding its statewide footprint and national presence in advocacy for Hispanics and Latinx.
Inspired by her son, Anthony, Ms. Peña founded the Boys to Leaders Foundation. Its mission is to empower and motivate young men by providing leadership training, educational programs, and positive personal and professional development.
In 2018, Sara served on Governor Phil Murphy and Lieutenant Sheila Oliver’s Human and Children Services Transition Advisory Committee.
Most recently, Ms. Peña serves on the Newark Public Library President’s Coterie chaired by the First Lady of Newark, Linda J. Baraka. The President’s Coterie aims to elevate the profile of the NPL by engaging residents, leaders and key stakeholders while working with the President of the Newark Public Library Board of Trustees.
Serving on the Executive Board of LUPE Fund, Inc., an organization dedicated to the empowerment of all Latinas in New Jersey, has also given her the opportunity to serve on committees engaging our youth. She currently serves on the Executive Committee. Has served in the capacity of President, Treasurer; Co-Chair of the Young Latina Leadership Conference; Chair of the Scholarship Committee; and is actively involved in engaging Latinas in the LUPE mission, to Empower, Educate, and Engage women from all walks of life through leadership, advocacy, and education to benefit all communities and to elevate the status of women.
Newark Mayor, Ras J. Baraka appointed her to the Commission on Status of Women who serve as Ambassadors, policy-makers for women’s issues, advocates for community outreach, and advisors to the Mayor on city issues. She is currently serving in her second term.
Ms. Peña currently serves on the New Jersey for Puerto Rico Relief (NJ4PR) Board of Directors. Since 2017, New Jersey for Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief has evolved into New Jersey for Puerto Rico Relief in order to recognize the new existence that Puerto Rico finds itself; not only from natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, but also economic and social disruption.
She has participated in the Emerge New Jersey's inaugural class of 2014. The organization’s mission is to inspire women to run, and its goal is to increase the number of Democratic women in public office. Ms. Peña is a fellow graduate of the Leadership Newark Program, which focuses on public policy and issues that affect the city as well as various community engagement projects.
Ms. Pena has served on the Community Justice Advisory Board with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office which is dedicated to creating and putting forth programs aimed to provide children and adolescents with positive alternatives and interventional strategies aimed at preventing delinquency.
Sara has volunteered at the Immigration Department at La Casa De Don Pedro, whose purpose is to serve those who have been victims of serious crimes by ensuring those individuals are provided with the right legal services and to educate them on the applicability of various Immigration Laws; Annual Newark Women’s Conference sponsored by Councilwoman Mildred Crump.
The Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders congratulated and issued a resolution, sponsored by Freeholder President Britnee N. Timberlake, to the Boys to Leaders Foundation for their commitment to providing educational, social, and cultural, services and programs to the community, especially young Latino males.
Sara was recently honored at the “Women on Fire; Our Time is Now!” award ceremony sponsored by The Newark Circle of Sisters for her commitment to Mentorship. Their mission is to empower women through the principles of sisterhood, scholarship, service, and celebration; ultimately creating a stronger network of women in Newark who support one another.
In September 2017, Ms. Peña received the distinguished Illustrious Award, a signature initiative of The Institute for Latino Studies, documents and highlights the contributions of Tri-State Area Latinos to the advancement of the United States of America.
Ms. Peña received the Shaping Our Future Leadership Award in Political Empowerment sponsored by Friends of the Hispanic Research and Information Center who support The Newark Public Library and create awareness of the importance of documenting the history of Latinos in New Jersey
In March of 2020, Woman in Media – Newark honored her at their 11th annual Women’s History Month Film Festival. This is dedicated to illustrious community members who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to the greater community through actions, deeds, and humanitarian efforts.
In 2020, Ms. Peña received the Girls; Live, Love, Laugh Incorporated Outstanding Leadership Award for her leadership to improve the lives of families in urban communities. Girls; Live, Love, Laugh, Incorporated is a nonprofit organization focusing on 6 to 15-year-old girls living within limited resources in the inner city of Newark, New Jersey.
In March of 2019, during Women’s History Month, Newark City Council President Mildred Crump recognized Ms. Pena with the “Trailblazer Award” for her outstanding achievements.
During Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration 2016, Essex County Freeholder President and currently Assemblywoman Britnee N. Timberlake recognized Ms. Pena, for her entrepreneurial success and for empowering women to make a difference in their communities.
Honored by the City of Newark Municipal Council, during Latin Heritage Month, for her unwavering commitment to the residents through her affiliations with the Hispanic community and community at large.
She also served as the Chair on the Board of Trustee to Roseville Community Charter School and on the Newark Pre-School Council Board. Ms. Peña received the Achievement Award from the Puerto Rican Day Parade Committee of Newark for her outstanding service and dedication to the Puerto Rican community and recently named “International Godmother” of the 2019 parade.