Big Bird helps a child down a slide

Sesame Workshop expands Sesame Street in Communities initiative to rural communities

By Kasey Brammell

Big Bird helps a child down a slide

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind “Sesame Street,” is partnering with Arizona PBS and 19 other local PBS stations serving rural communities across the country to enhance its early childhood education programs through the Sesame Street in Communities program.

Made possible with generous support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the station engagement initiative includes training for local providers who serve preschool children and virtual events for families, all using the Sesame Street in Communities resources.

The initiative, which is in its second year, deepens Sesame Workshop and PBS KIDS’ longstanding commitment to using the power of public television to bring critical early learning to children across the country in communities big and small. Sesame Workshop will continue to collaborate with The WNET Group in station selection and implementation. Each station is partnering with local early childhood programs serving rural families, including those with significant Native American and migrant populations, to support the early learning basics of language, literacy, and math.

The selected stations are:

  • Austin PBS
  • APT Alabama
  • Arizona PBS
  • Arkansas PBS
  • GPB Atlanta
  • KLRN San Antonio
  • KTOO Juneau
  • Louisiana Public Broadcasting Baton Rouge
  • Mississippi Public Broadcasting
  • Montana PBS
  • NET Nebraska
  • New Mexico PBS
  • Rhode Island PBS
  • South Dakota Public Broadcasting
  • WCTE Cookeville TN
  • WFSU Tallahassee
  • WGCU Fort Myers
  • WOSU Columbus
  • WQLN Erie
  • WXXI Rochester

Arizona PBS is collaborating with the Gila River Indian Community to create a special virtual Sesame Street in Communities Summit on Saturday, March 27 starting at 9 a.m. via Zoom and aired on the Gila River Indian Community closed circuit television broadcast system to accommodate those who may not be able to attend online.

Two childhood experts, Dr. Isela Garcia and Jasmin Williams, will participate in the Gila River summit, with a conversation hosted by Miss Gila River, Alyse Marrietta. Dr. Garcia is a local Arizona early childhood expert and Williams is a senior project manager of U.S. social impact at the Sesame Workshop organization. Williams introduces and embeds the Sesame Street in Communities model in communities around the country.

Following the event, educators in the Gila River Indian Community will be provided free online professional development workshops held at the end of March and throughout April. The workshops can contribute toward certification hours for those educators.

Additionally, Arizona PBS will be distributing over 1,000 toolkits to families and educators in the Gila River community.

Although primarily targeted toward adults, the summit will include child-friendly content and entertainment. Attendees will have a visit by Elmo, where he models the word “cactus.” The segment is made special for Arizona and will be available for Arizona PBS to use in the future.

“Sesame Workshop is so proud to partner again with CPB to support stations serving rural communities across the country, especially as families continue to face the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president of U.S. Social Impact, Sesame Workshop. “In partnership with PBS stations, which have long been trusted ambassadors of “Sesame Street,” we are thrilled that Sesame Street in Communities resources can support stations’ efforts to help children with the early learning basics and school readiness skills that they need to get through the challenges of today and thrive into the future.”

In this second Sesame Street in Communities project through Arizona PBS, the aim was to select a community that is rural in environment, but close to the Arizona PBS station in Phoenix.

“The Sesame Street in Communities initiative is key to providing some of our nation’s most vulnerable young learners with a strong foundation,” said Debra Sanchez, CPB senior vice president, Education and Children’s Content. “We are proud to extend our partnership with Sesame Workshop at this critical time to reach communities across the country, when the pandemic has impacted so many.”

Each participating station is recruiting and training local community providers on how to use the Sesame Street in Communities resources in their work with young children and families. While offering support in many issue areas, stations will focus on Sesame Workshop’s “Caring for Each Other” resources to help families cope with challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 20 stations, 10 will host virtual summits with local childhood development experts for parents and providers in their community.

Sesame Street in Communities provides easy-to-use tools for community providers and caregivers on the toughest issues children face, particularly on topics where there are few resources for young children. Since launching in 2015, Sesame Street and Communities has supported families on topics ranging from parental addiction to family homelessness—giving children the tools they need to build resilience and grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. The resources, which include videos, storybooks, digital interactives, games, and professional development resources, are available for free – in English and Spanish – at

Arizona PBS is one of the nation’s leading public media organizations, with four broadcast channels and a growing array of digital platforms. A trusted community resource for more than five decades, Arizona PBS fosters lifelong learning through quality programming, in-depth news coverage and critical educational outreach services. It is one of the country’s largest public television stations, reaching 80 percent of Arizona homes and 1.9 million households each week through four channels. Arizona PBS has been part of ASU since the station launched in 1961. Arizona PBS is a member-supported community service of Arizona State University and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. For more information, visit For more information about Sesame Street in Communities in Arizona, follow us on Facebook @AZPBSKIDS, Instagram @arizonapbskids, and Twitter @arizonaeducator.

Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization behind “Sesame Street,” the pioneering television show that has been reaching and teaching children since 1969. Today, Sesame Workshop is an innovative force for change, with a mission to help kids everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. We’re active in more than 150 countries, serving vulnerable children through a wide range of media, formal education, and philanthropically funded social impact programs, each grounded in rigorous research and tailored to the needs and cultures of the communities we serve. For more information, please visit

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,500 locally managed and operated public television and radio stations nationwide. CPB is also the largest single source of funding for research, technology and program development for public radio, television and related online services. For more information, visit, follow us on Twitter @CPBmedia, Facebook and LinkedIn and subscribe for other updates.

WNET is America’s flagship PBS station: parent company of New York’s THIRTEEN , WLIW21, WLIW-FM and operator of NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey and its news division, NJ SPOTLIGHT NEWS. Through its new ALL ARTS multi-platform initiative, its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each month. WNET produces and presents a wide range of acclaimed PBS series, including “Nature,” “Great Performances,” “American Masters,” “PBS NewsHour Weekend” and the nightly interview program “Amanpour and Company.” In addition, WNET produces numerous documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings, as well as multiplatform initiatives addressing poverty and climate. Through THIRTEEN Passport and WLIW Passport, station members can stream new and archival THIRTEEN, WLIW and PBS programming anytime, anywhere.

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