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Manzano named speaker

By Angela Bukur | Monday, April 29, 2013

Sonia Manzano, who plays Maria on “Sesame Street,” will speak to 51 multicultural members of the Saint Mary’s College Class of 2013 at the sixth annual Multiethnic Commencement Celebration on May 5.

The ceremony is hosted by the Office of Student Involvement and Multicultural Services (SIMS), which addresses the academic and personal needs of underrepresented students at the College, SIMS assistant director Graci Martsching said.  

“The SIMS office decided to start the annual Multiethnic Commencement Celebration because of the many wonderful, but misrepresented, women who are a part of our community at Saint Mary’s,” Martsching said. 

According to a College press release, Manzano was raised in the South Bronx of New York City as a first-generation American of Latino descent. In her junior year of college at Carnegie Mellon University of Pittsburgh, she traveled back 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” and broke ground as one of the first Latino characters on national television, the release stated. 

As a member of the “Sesame Street” writing team, Manzano won 15 Emmys and continues to create scripts for children’s programs as well as other literary ventures. 

“Some of the many reasons why we chose [Manzano] is because of her diverse background, many life achievements and influential strive toward women empowerment,” Martsching said. 

Manzano has received the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Award in Washington, D.C., the Hispanic Heritage Award for Education and an honorary doctorate in fine arts from Notre Dame. She was inducted into the Bronx Hall of Fame in 2004 and was voted one of the most influential Hispanics by People Magazine en Español, according to the release. 

Senior class president Silvia Cuevas said Manzano is living out her responsibility to encourage people not to let fear keep them from pursuing untrodden paths.

 [Manzano is] an example of someone who saw her ability and used it, full force,” Cuevas said. “I hope the rest of my classmates are also eager to go above and beyond and that they won’t allow fear or doubt [to] hinder them from doing so.”

Martsching said the Multiethnic Commencement Celebration is meant to demonstrate the College’s special effort to celebrate the challenges underrepresented students overcome while at Saint Mary’s. 

 Cuevas said only a small percent of multiethnic high-school students attends higher education. She said it is important to motivate students to attend college in order to experience more of the world.

“It is frustrating to see that only half of my childhood friends will finish with a college degree,” Cuevas said. 

Contact Angela Bukur at abukur01@saintmarys.edu