Hedi Belkaoui '04 MA '09

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Hedi Belkaoui, '04 MA '09 has carried Dominican University's mission across the country and world through his leadership of schools in underserved communities.

In his current role as School Director of Young Scholars Kenderton, a charter school in Philadelphia that uses a progressive educational approach designed specifically to close the achievement gap for low-income students.

Prior to joining Young Scholars Kenderton, Belkaoui served as principal of the Jay Pritzker Academy in Cambodia. There, he taught children whose families struggle to provide them with the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter—education is a dream that most never thought would be a reality.

Making a difference in the world has always been a priority for Hedi. Entering Dominican as a Golden Apple Scholar, a program designed to prepare exceptionally talented and motivated high school students for teaching in high-need schools, he served as a student intern at Crane High School,  a predominantly African American school in Chicago’s near west side, and Madero Middle School, a Hispanic school on the south side. 

He was a founding member of Dominican’s Campus Coalition for Peace, co-founded the Student Government Association, served as president of the Social Justice Coalition and was appointed a student trustee to the university’s board of directors—all while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average. 

At his undergraduate commencement program in 2004, Hedi was recognized as the Dorothy Reiner Mulroy Award winner for his scholarship as well as his service.

Following graduation, Hedi taught at Providence St. Mel School, a private school serving an African America student population on Chicago’s west side. The school incorporates a rigorous educational philosophy focusing on academic discipline, personal responsibility and self-reliance to prepare students for admission to some of the best colleges and universities in the country. 

While at the school, Hedi gained the attention of Daniel and Karen Pritzker, Providence St. Mel donors who had founded a modern, high-technology school in Tachet, a village outside Siem Reap, Cambodia where they wanted to employ the Providence St. Mel model of education.

Hedi and his wife, Heidy Moran '06 MAT '11, visited the school last spring and were hooked. According to his mother, Janice Monti, chair of Dominican’s sociology and criminology department, so much of what he had already accomplished in life seemed to point him in this direction.

Making the experience a true family affair, Heidy’s sister Yecenia ‘10, joined the school shortly thereafter.

"Cambodia is one of the most underdeveloped nations in the world. It has endured decades of violence and corruption coupled with crushing poverty that is frightening and almost impossible for U.S. citizens to even imagine," Hedi said.

Monti visited Hedi and Heidy in Cambodia and is understandably proud of the work that they have done.

"I have nothing but admiration for Hedi and I’m delighted that he and Heidy are committed to providing the advantages that they’ve had in life to others who have had so little. Cambodia is a country that has basically lost two generations to war and violence—over 80 percent of the population is under 30 years old. Hedi and Heidy recognize the importance of helping this young population," she said.

He credits Dominican for preparing him for the challenges and opportunities that he is experiencing.

"I can say with unabashed enthusiasm that Dominican’s motto of caritas and veritas are two of the most important pillars grounding my life. I am so grateful to Dominican for helping me understand the importance of leading an ethical life dedicated to serving others and for giving me the tools to live my life in pursuit of the goals of justice, truth and compassion," he said.