Carlos Lejnieks - President and Chief Executive Officer

Carlos Lejnieks is CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson & Union Counties (Newark, NJ) and immediate-past Chairman of Big Brothers Big Sisters of NJ.  Lejnieks took over an atrophied BBBS agency in 2008 and, within four years, went from serving approximately 100 youth to serving over 1,100. Under his leadership, BBBS has received numerous awards including a formal recognition by President Obama. In 2018, he rang the Closing Bell at the NY Stock Exchange in honor of this 10th anniversary at BBBS. Prior to joining BBBS, Lejnieks was an administrator and Leadership Team member of North Star Academy, a Blue Ribbon school based in Newark.  Prior to that, Lejnieks held positions as Vice President of CN Communications International and Goldman Sachs. 

Lejnieks serves on the Brown University Alumni Association Board of Governors where he is Chairman of its First Generation Committee, creating policy to better support first generation college students at Brown. He also serves on the Board of Regents for Saint Peter’s University, is Chair Emeritus of the NJ Charter Schools Association and was appointed to the Community Advisory Board for NJTV (NJ public television, a WNET family company).

Lejnieks is a Trustee for Jersey City Medical Center (a RWJ/Barnabas Health Hospital) and serves as Trustee for RWJ/Barnabas Health’s Diversity & Inclusion Sub-Committee of the Board.  Lejnieks is co-Founder and Vice Chair of Democracy Prep Public Schools, a $175M school system based in Harlem serving 6,500 students in five states. Lejnieks won Democracy Prep’s "Change the World" award in 2006 for helping create the school. Lejnieks has served on President Obama’s Regional Finance Committee, Governor Chris Christie’s Education Transition Team, Governor Phil Murphy’s Transition Team and Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s Transition Team.  In 2019, Lejnieks was a Gubernatorial appointee to the NJ Real Estate Commission as well as the inaugural NJ Task Force for the "Continued Transformation of Youth Justice". 

An Aspen Fellow, Lejnieks was selected as one of twelve people in Aspen’s "Emerging Leaders" cohort in 2012 and, in 2011, he graduated from the American Express Leadership Academy. In 2018, he won the top social sector leader award from American Express at their global alumni summit which came with a $25,000 donation to BBBS in Lejnieks’ honor. In 2018, he spoke alongside Sen. Cory Booker at the Nexus Global Youth Summit on "why mentoring matters". Lejnieks has guest lectured at Brown University, Columbia Law School, NYU, Saint Peter’s University, Rutgers University and Seton Hall Law School on the topics of social entrepreneurialism, education, corporate social responsibility, diversity & inclusion, among other themes. 

 Lejnieks has a B.A. degree in International Relations and Commerce from Brown University and an M.Sc. degree from the London School of Economics.  In 2011, he was given an Honorary Doctorate from Saint Peter’s University, where he delivered its commencement address.  In 2014, he was given the inaugural Presidential Medallion from New Jersey City University (NJCU), where he also delivered its commencement address. 

Board of Trustees

Carlos Lejnieks
President & CEO

Leslie Quick III, Chair 
Founding Partner, Simon Quick Advisors

Ron DeCicco 
CEO (ret.), Pershing/BNYMellon

Anne Fass

Angelo Genova
Senior Partner, Genova Burns

*Former or Current Big


Brett Harwood*
Chairman, Welcome Parking, LLC

*Current Big

Wendy Lacey
Founder, Cornerstone Montclair

Ron Litchkowski*
CEO (ret.), Mauser North America

Joel Ruffin*
VP, (office of CIO/COO), Goldman Sachs

*NJ Big Brother of the Year, 2010

Joseph Scott
EVP (ret.), RWJ Barnabas Health



Advisory Board

Governor Thomas H. Kean

Dr. Joel S. Bloom, Ed. D.
President (retired), NJIT

Richard Brown
Vice President Philanthropy (ret), American Express

Dr. Nancy Cantor
Chancellor, Rutgers - Newark

Dr. Susan A. Cole
President (ret), Montclair State University

Eugene Cornacchia, Ph. D.
President, Saint Peter's University

Kevin Cummings
CEO, Investors Bank

Dr. Dawood Farahi
President (ret.), Kean University

Senator William H. Frist
Former US Senate Majority Leader

Gloria Gaynor
GRAMMY-winning artist

Rev. David Jefferson, Jr.
Metropolitan Baptist Church

*Former or current Big




Rabbi Clifford Kulwin
Rabbi Emeritus, Temple B'nai Abraham

Kerri Berson Levine
Fidelco Realty Group

Rita Mitjans
Chief Diversity Officer (ret.), ADP

Barry Ostrowsky
CEO, (ret)RWJBarnabas Health

Rick Reider
Chief Investment Officer, BlackRock

John Schreiber
President & CEO, NJPAC

Kate Snow
Anchor, NBC News

Yvonne Surowiec*
Sr. EVP, CHRO, Valley National Bank

Aisha Thomas-Petit
Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, AMC

Ted & Nina Wells

Josh Weston
Honorary Chairman, ADP


Our Leadership Team

Carlos Lejnieks, President and CEO

Carlos is a visionary and has led Big Brothers Big Sisters for the last 14 years. He is passionate about making a positive impact on the children in our communities and showing them that they have an extended support system through the agency. Carlos ensures that he uses his platform to advocate for the needs of our future leaders. 

Natalia Sardo, Chief of Staff

Natalia M. Sardo, a native of Newark, NJ, has dedicated her 15+ year career to narrowing opportunity gaps for marginalized youth and families. She credits discovering her life purpose to two mentors in High School.  She is also a Big  Sister with Brothers Big Sisters.

Viviana Baeza, Director of Strategic Partnerships

Viviana has served in various roles at Big Brothers Big Sisters for the past 10 years. She loves who she executes this mission with and also who she does it for; the children. Viviana has grown various partnerships due to her deep care for making everyone she meets feel valued. 

Kashonda Barnes, Director of Match Support

Kashonda has deep-rooted ties to the city of Newark, NJ, and has 18+ years of experience of working directly with families. She is very passionate about the work she does. She is a firm believer that everyone can reach their full potential if they are given a chance. 

Heather Keller, Senior Fund Development Manager

Heather is exceptional at finding and securing funding for our youth. She is a team player and understands how important it is for our mentees. Heather has led our Bowl for Kids' Sake events successfully during the pandemic.

Crystaliz Green, Executive Assistant to CEO

Crystaliz has been a support for others by providing mental health interventions and advocacy. She earned a Master's degree in Higher Education and a certificate in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She believes everyone has the ability to fulfill their highest potential.

Ximena Duran, Enrollment Manager

Ximena has a passion for helping others and ensuring our communities are served.