Dominican Bronx Latina Secure Grants to Drive Student Success

Jacqueline Peña

Meet Jacqueline Peña, Ph.D.,  2017 Hispanic Woman of Distinction , Dean of Academic Affairs, Miami Dade College – North Campus


“As Hispanic women, we have to show our young ladies, through our actions and words, the roles that Hispanic women play in society and the power of our voices and actions in our day-to-day lives.

If we play that role for them, they will become a stronger generation and that growth will continue for future generations.”

Considering a college education can be a daunting and expensive pursuit.

Jacqueline PeñaAdults, who didn’t attend college in their youth, may wonder if they are too old to learn. Teens may be wary about how difficult college may be or wonder if their planned course of study is really for them after all.

Perhaps the reality of how to pay for college is what keeps some students from following their dreams.

There are many reasons why people don’t pursue a higher education and that’s why as Dean of Academic Affairs at Miami Dade College’s North Campus, Dr. Jacqueline Peña created “Free College for a Day.”

The program gives community members of all ages a one-day opportunity to “test drive” the college experience by taking two to three colleges classes or workshops in a variety of subjects or fields with no financial or academic pressure. The program also offers workshops on how to pay for college through financial aid, grants and scholarships.

They also offer other helpful options such as sessions on resume writing and interview skills for job seekers in the community.

Even elementary school children are brought to the college for fun workshops to put them in an early mindset toward academic success.

Jacqueline also spearheaded other programs to help students in remedial coursework by providing them with support services including technology, tutoring and mentoring to improve their chances of achieving their degree.

Weekend College, another of Jacqueline’s innovations, gives students an opportunity to attend college on Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays while holding down a typical 9 to 5 job.

But there is more to student expenses beyond tuition that can make obtaining a college degree financially difficult for some students.

That’s why Jacqueline has worked hard to secure and manage several major grant programs to help with student college preparation at select area high schools, technology to improve student success and the creation of student engagement spaces and programming to increase student retention and completion rates among their Hispanic and other minority students.

Born of Dominican ancestry in the Bronx, New York, Jacqueline supports a number of non-profit groups supporting and empowering youth.

She works on the “Tour de Esperanza” which is a partnership between the Gravelers (a group of gravel-riding bike enthusiasts) and Pedal for Hope.

The event raises funds to give out hundreds of school supplies, clothing and toys to children in the Dominican Republic and locally to some less fortunate, primarily Hispanic children in the Allapatah section of Miami.

Jacqueline received her B.A. with honors in English Literature from Herbert H. Lehman College, her Masters in English Literature from Boston College, her Doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction in Language, Literacy and Culture from Florida International University and a post-graduate certificate in Institutional Research from Florida State University.

Prior to coming to Miami Dade College, Jacqueline worked at Florida International University as a Grant Support Specialist and an Institutional Effectiveness Coordinator.

This Miami resident is a life-long lover of reading and writing. She also enjoys visiting family and friends while vacationing in New England and the Dominican Republic.


2017 Hispanic Women of Distinction honorees

2017 Hispanic Women of Distinction honorees

At PACE Center for Girls, girl-centered culture celebrates the power and potential of girls. With 19 non-residential centers throughout Florida, they provide a safe environment where middle and high school aged girls can thrive.

The balanced emphasis on academics and social services is combined with a program model to produce an experience that is nationally recognized as one of the most effective programs for helping at-risk girls realize brighter and more productive futures.  

The Jessica June Children’s Cancer Foundation (JJCCF) is a nonprofit public charity founded in 2004 by Sandra Muvdi shortly after the loss of her only child to cancer. Its mission is to provide emergency financial assistance for children fighting cancer to ensure access to basic human necessities. The Foundation also advocates for and raises awareness of childhood cancer.

Presented by Latina Style Magazine, the nation’s leading publication for Latina entrepreneursin partnership with Bank of America and AARP, the highly-promoted celebration brings to the forefront the contributions of Hispanic women from South Florida.  Co-sponsors include Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Walmart, Latin Business Today and La Poderosa Radio.  What the women have in common and is a major part of the judging process, is their American entrepreneurship intertwined with their values and traditions.

“This year was truly a difficult decision for our judges. With more than 50 nominations submitted, selecting 12 became a week-long effort to cast votes for the “crème de la crème” stated, Elaine Vasquez, founder and producer of the annual event.  Nominations were solicited from past honorees and community leaders in south Florida. 

“We are delighted to continue our long-time partnership with Hispanic Women of Distinction and provide insight and support to the entrepreneurs and community leaders who are making a difference, “said Robert Bard, CEO and Publisher of Latina Style Magazine.  

The 2017 Hispanic Women of Distinction are:

GLORIA L.  DIAZ-DANIELS –Div Sales Mgr Sales-Pharmacy Walmart – Palm Beach Colombian Born Latina Shines As Mentor and Walmart Sales Exec

ADRIANA FAZZANO FICANO – Chief of Staff, Broward College – Broward County

BLANCA GUERRA -Broward County Schools-Curriculum Sup/Dual Languages –Dade Cuban Latina Excels at Education and Preserving Heritage Languages  

KARINA GOMEZ-HERRERA – Pres. CEO Karnna Fashion & Company – Broward:  Outstanding Venezuelan Latina Excels as a “Hispanic Fashion Advisor”

Dr IVERIS LUZ MARTINEZ- Assoc Prof. Herbert Werthein College/Medicine FIU-Dade Cuban-American Latina Is a Premier Healthcare Anthropologist 

LORENA MASTRARRIGO -Assistant Public Defender, Broward County – Broward  Argentinian-American Latina Attorney Helping Hispanic Community

CHRISTINA PEREZ McDOWELL – Founder, Solutions by CPM, LLC – Dade

JACQUELINE NUNEZ – Co-owner, SOMA Medical Centers PA – Palm Beach

Dr. JACQUELINE PENA – Dean Academic Affairs – Miami Dade College –  Dade

MICHELLE MARTINEZ-REYES- CMO, Greenspoon Marder Law Firm – Broward  Latina Cuban-American Chief Marketing Officer Is Growing Brands

MARIELLE SOLOGUREN – Vice President. Pierson Grant Public Relations – Broward Latina of Ancestry Cuban-Peruvian Making Waves in PR

RACHEL TOURGEMAN –Community Relations Dir.- Florida National University-Dade Panamanian-American Latina Community Relations Professional Advocates for Victims


DAISY EXPOSITO-ULLA – Chairman, CEO of d exposito & Partnersa visionary creative leader in cross-cultural brand building for more than 30 years, Daisy has been recognized by numerous organizations and named as one of the most influential Latinas in the United States. 

Daisy joins past Latina Pioneers: Columba Bush, Ileana Ros Lehtinen, Maria San Juan, Caridad Asensio, Joyce Kaufman, Nelly Rubio, Aida Levitan, Maria Elena Torano, Helen Aguirre Ferre, Marielea Villamil and Millie Herrera.

Tickets to the luncheon are $95 per person.  Table sponsorships are $1500.  The luncheon includes a social hour with complimentary “mojitos”, a business expo, raffles, Latin entertainment, as well as a runway fashion show presented by the Las Olas fashion designer, Zola Keller. 

For more information visit or by calling (954) 709-1622.  Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. 

Related articles:

Latina Business Leader Spotlight: Ad Exec Daisy Expósito-Ulla  part 1

Latina Ad Exec Daisy Expósito-Ulla Talks Building a Business part 2

Latinas and the Business of Fashion

Latina Entrepreneur Turns a Crisis Into a New Career Catalyst

Latina Marketing Leader Transfers Skills 

Proud Puerto Rican Latina Is a Life-Long Advocate for the Elderly

Cuban-Honduran Latina Serving Health and Well-being of Babies

Colombian Latina Helps Others Achieve the American Dream

Inspirational Latina Engineer Serves as Broward College President

Successful Hialeah Born Latina Councilwoman- Community Activist

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