Sonia Manzano is a first-generation American of Latino descent who has affected the lives of millions of parents and children since the early 1970s, when she was offered an opportunity to play “Maria” on Sesame Street. 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. She was thrilled to help write the story line for “Maria’s” marriage and birth of “Maria’s” baby, played for a while by Manzano’s real-life daughter Gabriela. Manzano has performed on the New York stage in the critically acclaimed theater pieces The Vagina Monologues and The Exonerated and Love Loss and What I Wore. She has garnered 15 Emmys for writing television scripts, written a few critically praised books for children and young adults, and received awards that include the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Award, the Bronx Hall of Fame and the Hispanic Heritage Award for Education..