Born in the City of Newark, Vereliz Santana has dedicated her career and life to public service and has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to championing social, racial and educational justice.
Being born to immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic has been Ms. Santana’s most extraordinary blessing. She is an ardent believer that the sacrifices her parents endured illuminated a path of opportunity for her. It was on this path where she learned education has the power to transform dreams into realities.
Ms. Santana attended Stockton University where she earned a bachelor’s degree English. Determined to continue her path of higher education, Ms. Santana traveled to Spain where she obtained a master’s degree in English literature and linguistics at the University of Granada. While abroad Ms. Santana gained a global perspective on education through an externship as a student-teacher at the International School of Granada, where she taught second-language learners.
Ms. Santana returned to New Jersey and joined the administration of Mayor Ras J. Baraka. As the Mayor’s senior aide, Ms. Santana established and maintained relationships with constituents, community stakeholders and local public interest groups. She planned, developed and oversaw programs and initiatives designed to serve and empower the city and its constituency. She also established neighborhood, block and tenant associations with the goal of fostering community and establishing a direct line of support and communication with the city.
After serving the in the administration, Ms. Santana began working at the International Division at The College Board Headquarters. Following her time at the College Board, she joined the office of New Jersey Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, the chair of the Senate Education Committee. She was quickly promoted to the role of legislative director, a title she still holds today.
As legislative director to the president pro tempore of the New Jersey State Senate, Ms. Santana is responsible for developing and driving the Senator’s legislative, policy and budget agenda while developing corresponding advocacy strategies.
Ms. Santana is also granted the unique opportunity to draft legislation that has the potential to impact the lives of millions of New Jerseyans. These opportunities have allowed her to examine and mitigate some of the state’s most complex issues, including: the creation of an inclusive apprenticeship bill package to address the disproportionate number of underrepresented minorities in high-growth industries, the realignment of state tax incentive programs to meet the needs of New Jersey’s vulnerable communities, and most recently, the decriminalization of marijuana in an earnest effort to begin to address the racial and social disparities of marijuana prohibition and enforcement.
Ms. Santana is a devoted civil servant who is committed to advancing racial and social equity through her education, community and policy work.
- Born in Newark
- BA, Stockton University
- MA, University of Granada
- MBA candidate, Rutgers University-Newark
- Operations and Finance committees, Newark Board of Education
- Legislative Director, Senator Ruiz, Chair of Senate Education Committee
- Staffed the Senate Education Recovery Task Force
- Former Senior Aide to Mayor Ras J. Baraka
- International Programs Associate, The College Board