Congratulations to René Celaya ’88, recipient of the 2020 Giulio Regeni Alumni Impact Award.
As vice president for humanitarian programs at Sesame Workshop, René leads an innovative collaboration between Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee. The committee provides early learning opportunities for displaced and host community children and caregivers affected by the Syrian conflict in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and northern Syria. The program will reach more than a million children by delivering urgent early childhood development support to families through classrooms and health clinics. The program will also provide an all-new, Arabic-language Sesame TV show called Ahlan Simsim that is broadcast in 20 countries across the Middle East and North Africa. Ahlan Simsim is also elevating awareness, engaging policy makers, spearheading research, and increasing investment to support the critical needs of early childhood development in crisis settings.
René appreciates that his commitment to international development started in a school by a castle in the small Southwest US town of Montezuma, New Mexico. He went on to earn a bachelor’s in Russian and Soviet studies from Harvard University and a master’s of international affairs on economic development from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
The Giulio Regeni Alumni Impact award honors UWC-USA alumni whose work and life exemplify the UWC mission. Giulio Regeni ’07 was an Italian citizen and a doctoral student at Cambridge University in the UK. He was conducting his Ph.D. research on the formation of independent trade unions, specifically the street vendors’ union, in Egypt after the fall of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. He was in Cairo conducting field research when on January 25, 2016, the fifth anniversary of the “25 January Revolution,” he disappeared. His body was found nine days later.