Pennsauken leaders hope to inspire new generations of women to succeed
Two women in Camden County made history last year and are now hoping that their leadership roles will inspire young girls to go after their dreams.
Pennsauken Mayor Jessica Rafeh is the first person of Hispanic and Middle Eastern descent to hold the office. She is also joined by Deputy Mayor Nichole Roberts, the first African American woman to hold the title of deputy mayor. The two are the first female-minority leadership in Pennsauken history.
“This is so awesome to have two females now in the leader position. The guys balance us out perfectly, and we take it very seriously,” Roberts says. “It’s an awesome opportunity to show that balance is needed, and we can do it.”
Roberts has called Pennsauken her home her whole life.
“My parents raised me and my siblings here. My husband raised our four children here, so I am Pennsauken proud,” Roberts says.
Rafeh was born in Venezuela, immigrated to America and eventually moved to Pennsauken when she was 21 years old.
“Once we arrived to Pennsauken, it was – it just felt like home,” she says.
The two women are hoping to bring change to the township and give a voice to those who haven’t had one in the past.
“If I could in any way be their voice, then I’ve done a little bit of that job that I’m here to do, which is be their voice and celebrate their diversity and let them know that there's somebody in Council that represents them,” Rafeh says.
"Needless to say, women have a unique perspective. We are natural caretakers so we're a little more open to options and solutions, so I think that balance is so important,” Roberts says.
And what do they want young girls to take away from their story?
"You can do anything you want. Like I always say, the power is in your hands. It's in no one else's hands. You have the power, so go on with it,” says Rafeh.
"It means a lot that my daughter and my three granddaughters and the township girls know that they can do it, that their voices are counted and that if I can do it, they can do it,” Roberts says.