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Keynote Address: Sonia Manzano

Sunday, March 12 8:00 AM - 9:30 AM

"From the South Bronx to Sesame Street: A Story of Human Potential"

Sonia Manzano

In this heartwarming and inspirational keynote address, Sonia Manzano will trace the story of her life—from her struggles as a member of a troubled, Puerto Rican family living in an impoverished neighborhood in the Bronx to becoming “Maria of Sesame Street"—a cultural icon to millions worldwide. Sonia’s is the story of one girl’s resilience as she emerges from the barrio to find herself one of the most influential and beloved Latinas in television history. Along the way, through the character of Maria, she has found a home in the hearts of generations of children. 

In addition to her personal narrative, Sonia will share the ways that Sesame Street evolved with the mood of the country, explaining how it went about its mission of lovingly educating children worldwide, and provide plentiful anecdotes about her furry Muppet co-stars. You will leave with a full heart, inspired to see the glowing light in all children and to guide them in reaching their pinnacle—regardless of whether they hail from environments that are enriched, impoverished, or somewhere in-between. Echoes of Maria Montessori’s words—“Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world”—will strongly resound.

About Sonia Manzano

Better known as “Maria” from her 44-year run on Sesame Street, Sonia Manzano is an award-winning writer, actress, and child advocate. She has 16 Emmy Awards, including her 2016 Lifetime Achievement Daytime Emmy Award. She is the author of the 2015 memoir Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx; the young adult novel The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano; and author of the children’s picture books Miracle on 133rd Street, No Dogs Allowed!, and A Box Full of Kittens. In 2007, Sonia was named by People en Español as one of America’s most influential; she has been recognized by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus with its Distinguished Service Award; and she is the 2003 recipient of the Hispanic Heritage Award for Education. Ms. Manzano holds honorary degrees from Lehman College, Carnegie-Mellon University, Tufts University, and the University of Notre Dame.

Books by Sonia Manzano

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