Sesame Street actress pays virtual visit to Bronx middle school

On April 27, Sonia Manzano spoke virtually with students at Highbridge Green School
Photo courtesy Meet the Writers

Bronx middle school students had a chance to virtually meet a homegrown celebrity this week.

On April 27, Sonia Manzano, who was Maria on “Sesame Street” from 1971 to 2015, spoke virtually with students at Highbridge Green School, 200 W 167th St., about her book and growing up Hispanic in the neighborhood.

The visit was thanks to education nonprofit Meet the Writers, which supports literacy and fosters a love of reading in New York City students by bringing authors and artists to their schools.

“The idea is to inspire the school kids about their power to craft stories, especially when they’re stuck indoors,” said Meet the Writers founder Michele Weisman. “Now is the time to find a passion for writing, to escape the confinement of small apartments, and elevate each other with the power of words.”

Weisman, who was in publishing for many years, started the nonprofit in 2015. It has reached more than 20,000 students at more than 150 school visits citywide.

Manzano, 69, spoke to the Bronx Times about the virtual visit. She is not tech savvy, so it was a bit weird at first. They used Google Hangouts and after numerous suggestions from the kids she was able to use audio but could not figure out how to do the video.

“It was an adjustment doing it through the computer,” she said.

She discussed her book, “The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano,” “Sesame Street” and how Latinos were invisible in the 60s and 70s in the Bronx. The youngsters asked her why she felt self conscious and she said “society told her she wasn’t worthy.”

Manzano told the students her views about being a Latina in the Bronx changed in 1969 when the activist group the Young Lords became popular. The Young Lords is a civil and human rights organization whose mission is to fight for neighborhood empowerment and self-determination of Puerto Ricans, Latinos and colonized people.

“I don’t think they’re [Latinos] invisible now,” she stressed. “We’re in the media and we’re really active now.”

She told the Bronx Times that the kids seemed in good spirits, were polite, inquisitive and smart.

Highbridge Green Principal Kyle Brillante said the students enjoyed meeting the “Sesame Street” star. He said learning virtually has not been easy but was impressed that 81 kids participated in the event.

Brillante said Manzano had a powerful impact on the children because many of them are Latino.

“It was a really a fantastic program,” he commented. “Personally, when I was a kid growing up [in Texas] we got to meet authors and they were powerful experiences for me. I wanted to bring that experience here for the kids in the Bronx.”

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