Karen Cirillo has worked with UNICEF for almost a decade, and for the last six years her primary focus has been on supporting youth media education.
For five years, Karen directed the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting, which focuses on programming that takes a deeper dive into children’s issues, and which also encourages young people to get involved with the broadcasting process. “If young people see themselves on air,” says Karen, “they might feel more encouraged to speak out about the issues they are facing.”
Most recently, Karen has focused on producing theoneminutesjr., an initiative with The One Minutes Foundation to train young people on filmmaking techniques, and then coach them through the process of directing and producing a one minute film.
Karen, whose background is in film curation, served as a program director for a film festival in North Carolina before joining UNICEF in 2002. In her spare time, Karen still keeps her feet wet in the world of film, producing Doxita, a traveling festival that highlights short documentaries, and which is typically screened in art spaces such as museums and university centers.
Karen says the best part of her job with UNICEF is the opportunity to meet young people from all over the world. Sometimes the students in Karen’s filmmaking workshops are in their young teens, but already working to help support their families and carving out time for the workshop to follow a new passion for filmmaking. Other students may be young activists in the field of human rights, taking a filmmaking class as one of many stepping stones to college. What all her students have in common is a desire to share their stories across boundaries and borders. Karen’s workshops help her students take storytelling to the next level: graduating from capturing video clips with their cellphones to learning how to operate professional cameras and use advanced filmmaking techniques.
Although producing a traveling film festival and teaching workshops around the globe would be enough to keep anyone busy, Karen is also volunteering her time as a judge in the Adobe Youth Voices Aspire Awards.