FREE! Join us for a conversation with actress and author Sonia Manzano as she discusses her life and career ranging from Sesame Street to Alma’s Way and gives a “behind-the-scenes” take on some of your favorite PBS Kids shows!

Engage with special guests from PBS KIDS as they share insights into the making of children’s media. And we want to hear from you and your young learners! Share your perspective with national producers and leave with exciting ways to utilize PBS KIDS with your family.

This event is held in partnership with WUCF as part of their 10th anniversary celebrations.

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PBS Kids! A Conversation with Sonia Manzano


Sonia Manzano has inspired, educated, and delighted children and families as “Maria” on Sesame Street for over 40 years. Named among the “25 Greatest Latino Role Models Ever” by Latina Magazine, Manzano broke ground as one of the first Hispanic characters on national television. Throughout her career, she has continued to contribute to enriching diversity on television, on the stage, and in the educational realm. A first generation Puerto Rican born on the mainland, Manzano’s tale is one of perseverance and courage as she overcame countless obstacles to become one of the most influential Latinas in television. Manzano was raised in the South Bronx, where her involvement in the arts was inspired by teachers who encouraged her to audition for the High School of Performing Arts. She was accepted there and began her career as an actress. A scholarship took her to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and in her junior year, she came to New York to star in the original production of the off-Broadway show Godspell. Within a year, Manzano joined the production of Sesame Street, where she eventually began writing scripts for the series. After forty-four years she decided to retire from Sesame Street and author books. Her book titles include The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano and a memoir, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx (Scholastic). Becoming Maria was praised by Kirkus Reviews for its “lyrical and unflinching account of her tough Nuyorican upbringing in the South Bronx,” and calls it a “touching memoir.” “Manzano lovingly details life-changing moments,” with a “stark and heartbreaking contrast to her Sesame Street character.” She’s penned three picture books with Simon and Schuster. Her latest book called A World Together (National Geographic) aims to promote unity by celebrating cultural and generational diversity. Recently, Scholastic and Manzano partnered to launch two middle-grade novels and two picture books. The first of which is Coming Up Cuban, which is set in 1959 and follows the lives of four children who each represent different intersections of race and class in Cuba. Ms. Manzano has created and developed with Fred Rogers Productions an animated children’s program for PBS. Alma’s Way premiered in Oct. 2021. Sonia Manzano knows a thing or two about determination. Now a twice nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series, Manzano didn’t have a lot of resources as a child growing up in the South Bronx. Immensely talented, Sonia never gave up.