Beloved .ORG Teaches and Reaches Children Worldwide.
Muppets and a Mission: Beloved .ORG Teaches and Reaches Children Worldwide
Generations of children have grown up on Sesame Street, where the air is sweet and happy monsters like Big Bird, Elmo, Oscar, and Snuffleupagus “come and play” with human characters and very special guests of all races, genders, and backgrounds. The show premiered in 1969 with the idea that television could—and should—touch the hearts, minds, and lives of children during their early childhood years, when education is essential. Since then, it has won five Peabody Awards and 193 Emmys.
“Sesame Street was created to provide access to quality learning for children who may not have it. To give those with fewer advantages the opportunity to arrive at school ready to learn and with the tools to cope with life’s challenges,” says Sherrie Westin, Sesame Workshop’s President of Social Impact and Philanthropy.
For more than 50 years, Sesame Workshop, the non-profit behind Sesame Street and other beloved children’s programming, not only teaches children and their caregivers in a most engaging way, but also reaches them with life lessons about being kind, sharing, celebrating uniqueness, and embracing differences. When Sesame Street first came on the screen, it broke barriers. There had never before been a children’s program with an integrated cast on television, something that got the show initially banned in Mississippi. Those images of diverse friends learning and singing together made a positive difference right away: “It was the first time for so many kids that they could see themselves reflected on TV,” says Westin.
Sesame Workshop continues to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion, and is putting a strong new focus on combating racism and white supremacy. “We think it’s important to be overt in helping children and families address racism. We are partnering with local and national organizations in our communities to create content, resources, and materials, and to learn from the communities themselves,” says Westin. The organization recently partnered with CNN for a special town hall about racism, featuring favorite Sesame Street characters, as well as a conversation between Elmo and his dad about the Black Lives Matter movement.
On Sesame Street, sunny days chase the clouds away, as the theme song goes. This continues to be true even in the darkest of times. Recognizing the special challenges facing children and their caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sesame Workshop also partnered with CNN to host a series of town halls on the ABCs of Covid-19. The town halls are part of Sesame Workshop’s Caring For Each Other initiative and include strategies for staying safe, coping with feelings, sparking at-home learning, and what to do when kids miss their friends.
“We have a long history of reaching children at home,” says Westin. “Millions of children all over the world have been out of school [due to COVID-19]. We are being innovative in how we reach kids with basic education and tools to address tough issues,” she says. This is the case in the United States, a refugee camp in Bangladesh, and anywhere within the 150 countries where Sesame Workshop is present. The organization also has created a special fund to help families in need during the pandemic.
What began as pioneering family entertainment and educational programming has evolved into a movement for good. Sesame Workshop’s progression includes not only new and classic characters and shows but also philanthropy-based projects that help millions around the world. From programs that educate children and families about addiction, autism, and weathering trauma, to initiatives that model good hygiene, support military and foster families, and encourage financial literacy, Sesame Workshop continues its commitment to giving every child a great start.
The .ORG domain name helps Sesame Workshop make an impact, according to Westin. “Being a .ORG is important for Sesame Workshop, in particular, because it signals our non-profit work. People know and love Sesame Street, but they may not know the breadth and depth of our work with kids and families around the world that relies upon philanthropic support. We are so proud to be a .ORG.”
Sesame Workshop is so much more than a television show. And Sesame Street is so much more than an imaginary street inhabited by a Count who counts, a lovable grouch, and a very large yellow bird. For those still wondering “how to get to Sesame Street,” as of 2019, when it was formally declared a street by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, it can be found at West 63rd and Broadway. (This story has been brought to you by the letters .ORG.)
Sesame Workshop recently launched a Critical Needs Response Fund to help meet vulnerable children’s most urgent needs—whatever they may be. Right now, this fund directly supports Caring for Each Other, Sesame Workshop’s COVID-19 response initiative. Learn more at www.SesameWorkshop.org/Donate/CriticalResponse.