Photos: Sarah Schuman

Never underestimate kid power. That’s the message of the Bronx Children’s Museum’s Dream Big program, which on Saturday celebrated the completion of its second summer of children’s workshops at community centers throughout the borough with a day of festivities hosted by Hostos Community College.

The kids lived up to the message, using their power to attract important mentors, including this year’s honoree, United States Surgeon General Regina Benjamin.

Dr. Benjamin was joined at the college’s main building, on the Grand Concourse and 149th St., by a number of surprise guests including last year’s honoree, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Sonia Sotomayor, along with U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Jose Serrano in addition to state and local officeholders or their representatives.

Parents, public officials and invited guests were treated to demonstrations and displays of music, art and dance that 116 children spent five weeks developing at Bronxworks, SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now), Freedom Community and Abraham House under the direction of the Afro-Caribbean dance group ¡Retumba!, the Pregones theater group and museum instructors. A Society of the Educational Arts, Inc. puppet show and a performance by the Highbridge Voices, a teen chorus, rounded out the day’s events.

Longtime museum supporter Sonia Manzano — Maria from Sesame Street — was the emcee.

This year, the program focused on health in an area which has some of the highest rates of childhood obesity, diabetes and asthma in the city.

The Surgeon General regaled her audience with her own version of the Dream Big story, telling them of her trajectory from a childhood of deprivation in rural Alabama to medical school to becoming “America’s doctor” despite extraordinary obstacles — including floods, hurricanes and fires — she had to contend with and she shared information with the kids about the importance of nutrition and exercise.

As she did when she was the honoree at a similar ceremony at Lehman College last year, Justice Sotomayor established an instant rapport with the kids, who crowded around and hugged her.  Referring to the theme of this year’s program, she shared the story of her own struggle with childhood diabetes.

“Once again this year , our children are learning what it takes to make big dreams come true, all while having fun.” said board president Hope Harley, “And they are also learning how to live a healthy lifestyle to help them realize their goals.  Finally they have the opportunity to meet someone who proves that Dream Big is more than just a slogan.  Surgeon General Benjamin is proof of what can be achieved when you work hard and Dream Big, just as Justice Sotomayor has been.”

“Today is about Dreaming Big and celebrating the accomplishments our wonderful Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin and of another Sonia from the Bronx, the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor. Today is also about the importance of early childhood education and the importance of living a healthy life style,” said Sonia Manzano. “I know, from being on Sesame Street for so many years, that children are born with the desire to learn and explore. It is our job as adults to keep their enthusiasm for learning alive. A children’s museum does exactly that. I wish the Bronx Children’s Museum had been in existence when I was growing up in the Bronx. I look forward to joining both Dr. Benjamin our Surgeon General and Justice Sotomayor at the ground breaking ceremony,” she added.

Founding Executive Carla Precht added, “Our Museum will continue to provide programs in the community under the umbrella of “Dream Big” while our center is being developed. In the meantime, we are thrilled to have a new bus to transport programs and exhibits throughout the Bronx. Our first interactive exhibit in our bus, called River on the Go, will be unveiled in the fall.

The Bronx Children’s Museum is slated to open its Center by late 2013. The museum will provide interactive inquiry-based programs both inside and outside the Museum’s walls that promote literacy, the arts, science, cultural enrichment, greening, and sustainability. The Museum is currently developing its exhibits. The Museum collaborates with, complements and supports community-based organizations, shelters, foster care and day care programs, and schools, as well as cultural and recreational institutions in the Bronx.

For questions regarding the museum and its programs please contact Richard Stein, press liaison for the board. E-mail: rstein001@optonline.net. Phone: 347-291-5415. www.bronxchildrensmuseum.org.


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