St. Olaf Magazine | Winter 2019

Being the Change: Victoria Celano ’13

Victoria Celano’s life reflects her dual passions: social justice and a desire to serve others. “I don’t only want to see people’s lives improve,” Celano says. “I want to be an active part of challenging the status quo and elevating the social sector’s ability to impact individual’s lives.”

From co-chairing Chicago Foundation for Women (CWF): Young Women’s Giving Council to starting a boxing program that mentors at-risk youth, Celano is a tireless advocate in her Chicago community. “I love being part of a foundation where I can be involved in the grant-making process and support local organizations that focus on freedom from violence, economic equity, and access to health care,” says Celano. “I’m an advocate of CFW’s belief that when you invest in women and girls, you invest in a society that works for everyone.”

Her interest in the nonprofit sector can be traced her undergraduate years on the Hill, where she majored in English with concentrations in biomedical studies, and women and gender studies while also launching the St. Olaf Equestrian Club and the St. Olaf Boxing Club. An internship at the Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center (ZCenter) and her work with youth at the YMCA in Northfield inspired her to engage in similar work on a larger scale.

Upon graduation, Celano pursued her vocation at ZCenter. “Often, people ask if it was depressing to go to work at a sexual abuse resource center, but it was quite the opposite. You witness a lot of pain and trauma, but you also are witness to the incredible resiliency and strength of survivors of sexual assault — it was an honor to go to work every day,” she says. Not only did her work at ZCenter make a difference in the lives of the individuals she met, but she also worked diligently to streamline operations, which led to tripling the number of clients ZCenter served in emergency rooms and through a crisis help line.

Celano recently transitioned to a role at ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and in 2017, began pursuing her M.B.A. at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. At ALSAC/St. Jude, Victoria coordinates the St. Jude Four Stars of Chicago Restaurant Extravaganza, a Chicago fundraising gala to support the kids at St. Jude, and oversees the St. Jude Leadership Society, a leadership experience for high school students who have a passion for giving back. Energized by the mission of St. Jude, Celano is excited to work for, and learn from, a national institution leading the way in how the world understands, treats, and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

“My overall goal is to innovate around how we — from government to the social sector to businesses and individuals— positively impact the people most in need in our communities,” says Celano, who hopes to use her M.B.A. to integrate more business acumen into her social justice approaches.

Celano’s can-do spirit and her drive to make a difference continue to fuel her as she pursues the next chapter of her career — all part of an effort to contribute her talents to create a more just world.