Sonia Manzano, Sesame Street’s Maria, Joins APM’s 50th Anniversary Speaker Series

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PHILADELPHIA — (Oct. 7, 2020) — Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (Association of Puerto Ricans on the March or APM) is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a four-part Speaker Series, bringing together thought leaders, experts and activists to discuss issues central to the social services organization. The second event of the series features Sonia Manzano, who became one of the first Hispanic characters on national television portraying Maria on “Sesame Street.” Manzano, a lifelong early childhood education advocate, will share her TV and life experiences as the keynote speaker of APM’s early childhood education virtual event on Wednesday, Oct. 14 from 12 to 1:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Registration can be accessed at

Manzano, a multiple Emmy-winning television writer and actress, will discuss the impact of early education and the important roles that families, the media and the community play in child development. She will then join a panel moderated by Avi Wolfman-Arent, WHYY education reporter, to discuss ways to identify the best tools for ensuring children’s success, which is more important than ever as we continue to navigate educational inequities and challenges during Covid-19. Panelists include Pedro A. Rivera, Ph.D., former Pennsylvania Secretary of Education and Robert Stechuk, Ph.D., Director of Early Childhood Education Programs for UnidosUS. Those who donate $50 to APM can participate in a 30-minute VIP virtual “meet and greet” with Ms. Manzano following the panel. Invitations to the meet and greet are limited, and donations can be made at

“Sonia Manzano has been a beloved and empowering voice in children’s education for decades,” said Nilda Ruiz, president and CEO of APM. “Her work and her presence on television have inspired generations of children.”

Manzano was deemed one of the “25 Greatest Latino Role Models Ever” by Latina Magazine and continues to pursue projects related to child literacy and parenting. Raised bilingual in the South Bronx, she was a stage actress before joining the cast of “Sesame Street,” where she wrote songs and scripts in addition to playing Maria from 1971 to 2015. Manzano also wrote for the Peabody Award-winning series

“Little Bill” and “Blue’s Clues.” Her books include the children’s picture book, “Miracle on 133rd Street” and her coming-of-age memoir, “Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx.”

In its 50 years serving Philadelphians, APM has become a leader in providing programs that serve children, parents and families with non-English speakers or special needs. Through its early childhood education initiatives, APM has placed 610 three- and four-year-old children in high-quality preschools and many in before- and after-care centers. To address the digital divide during the pandemic, APM delivered 638 tablet computers to the young (3-to-5-year-old) students in its early childhood education programs. Last year, APM’s students showed remarkable progress. At the beginning of the year, 64 percent were below expectations in literacy, with 61 percent below expectations in math. By the end, 85 percent met or exceeded expectations in literacy and 75 percent in math.

APM’s 50th Anniversary Speaker Series is a way to combine the good APM does in Philadelphia communities with a closer look at the larger societal issues at-hand. The next installments of the series will feature John Quiñones and Elizabeth Smart as keynote speakers.

About APM
Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM) is a non-profit organization that works to improve the quality of life for residents of Greater Philadelphia through direct service and outreach. We offer a full spectrum of bilingual and culturally sensitive social services related to education, health, human services and community and economic development.

To learn more, visit and follow the hashtag #APMTurns50 and @APMForEveryone on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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