Educational First Steps, whose mission is to improve the availability of quality early childhood education for economically disadvantaged children, held its fifth annual One Childhood One Chance luncheon on Nov. 17. The keynote speaker was Sonia Manzano, who inspired, educated and delighted children and families as “Maria” on Sesame Street for many decades.
WFAA anchor Cynthia Izaguirre emceed and welcomed guests including many elected officials and VIPs in attendance. Co-chairs Merry Munson Wyatt, Kathryn Munson Beach and Meg Munson McGonigle spoke next. Beach said, “By partnering with existing daycare centers and preschools in some of the most impoverished neighborhoods in North Texas, Educational First Steps is leading the charge to ensure that quality education is available for the youngest children in our community.”
While the Sesame Street theme song played, Manzano walked in with the Braswell Child Development Center children, who gave the opening prayer. Earlier that morning, she read to the children.
Keynote speaker and child advocate Manzano spoke about her upbringing in a low-income neighborhood in the South Bronx but how, despite her limited economic means, she loved and excelled in school. She spoke of teachers who believed in her abilities and encouraged her to audition for the High School of Performing Arts, which led to her attending Carnegie Mellon University on a scholarship. In her junior year, she went to New York to star in the original production of Godspell, and within a year, she joined Sesame Street, where she began a lifelong career that garnered 15 Emmy Awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award. Now retired, she’s written her memoirs and children’s books. Manzano encourage the attendees to pour into children at an early age and applauded the work that EFS does.