Students read letters to Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Photo: Christian Johnston
The Bronx Children's Museum held its seventh annual Dream Big Day at Bronx Community College on July 14th. The honoree was Bronx native and U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Dream Big is the Museum's intensive summer arts-enrichment program for children in 2nd and 3rd grades. It is held at local Community Based Organizations (CBOs), schools and community groups. Associate Justice Sotomayor has attended Dream Big Day for seven consecutive years.
This summer the theme was "Discovering Your Home." The Museum Board decided it was time to honor the Justice once again after celebrating her life and appointment to the Supreme Court in 2010 when the Dream Big program first began.
As Hope Harley, Board President emphasized, "The Justice's heartwarming story about working hard to achieve one's dreams is a story we want all of our children from the Bronx to understand, identify with, and be inspired by. The Bronx Children's Museum has been inspired by the Justice's journey because we, too, have been dreaming big and working hard. We've been receiving a lot of support. As a result, construction is to begin in late 2016 on a gorgeous, landmarked, City-owned building, which we will call our home in 2018. This has been our dream for the children of the Bronx!"
First Lady of NYC Chirlane McCray talks with students about the importance of college. Photo: Christian Johnston
In the Dream Big summer program, Bronx teaching artists engage children through the arts in the exploration of a theme or the study of a Bronx notable person. The program runs for three days a week for four or five weeks and includes a celebration day called Dream Big Day at a Bronx college and a closing celebration at their Community Based Organization or school.
This summer's program has 100 children from Phipps Houses (Sotomayor Houses and Soundview Houses) and SCAN (Supportive Children's Advocacy Network) at P.S. 55 in Morrisania. For the month of July, children are studying the life of the Justice using drama, the visual arts and books. The Museum also created a special video with the Justice for the 2016 Dream Big participants. In addition, this Dream Big Day morning the children had a memorable opportunity to speak directly with the Justice, and a chance to meet another of New York City's remarkable leaders, First Lady Chirlane McCray, who spent forty-five minutes interacting with Dream Big Day participants before student workshops commenced.
Sonia Manzano shares background on her life growing up in the Bronx. Photo: Christian Johnston
In the afternoon in the Bronx Community College Playhouse, renowned Bronx storyteller David Gonzalez talked to the children about the theme of home and the importance of storytelling. The performance was interspersed with speakers including Sonia Manzano (formerly "Maria" from Sesame Street and pioneer advocate of the Museum). Ms. Manzano introduced the Justice as the Dream Big Day 2016 honoree with praise and appreciation on behalf of all Bronx children past, present and future.
When she addressed the children during the afternoon performance, Justice Sotomayor stressed her Bronx upbringing, similar to many of the children there, saying, "I want you to be me, because I am you, and that means you need to dream big." She then invited the children on stage in order to get a better viewpoint of the many adult attendees in the auditorium, explaining that "These are the people who are here to support [you]."
Performer David Gonzalez captivates students. Photo: Christian Johnston
Sonia Manzano had this to say about her longtime friend: "I can't think of a more deserving person to be honored by the Bronx Children's Museum. The Justice's story is a testament to the great potential that exists here in the Bronx among our children. Like myself, and like many of the children here today, the Justice was born and raised here in this amazing borough, and her achievements inspire us all to dream big and work hard. With the Justice as a role model, and with the Bronx Children's Museum providing these educational opportunities to children, I expect that we'll see many more great artists, thinkers, and lawmakers come from the Bronx in the future."
NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray noted, "Our children cannot achieve what they cannot imagine, especially those children who begin life on the bottom rung of the economic ladder. When young people are able to interact with shining examples of success like Justice Sotomayor and Sonia Manzano, who understand their lives and even come from the same neighborhood, it fuels their imagination as to what is possible for their own future. These kind and generous leaders, and public institutions like the Bronx Children's Museum help inspire and motivate our children to achieve. I am honored to spend time with these leaders - and the amazing future leaders - as a part of the Bronx Children's Museum Dream Big program."
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. remarked, "The Bronx has nurtured many great minds over the centuries, but few are as noted and accomplished as Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor. While known best for her dedication to upholding the law, her presence here today, and at every Dream Big Day held in the Bronx over the past seven years, proves that the Justice above all else is a person who cares deeply for her community and her home. I encourage the children here to look to Justice Sotomayor as a shining example of where their dreams can take them, if they are willing to first remember where they come from."
NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said, "As the first Latina Supreme Court Associate Justice, Sonia Sotomayor has set a high standard for personal and professional achievement. In examining her journey from the public housing developments of the South Bronx to her seat on the highest court in Washington D.C., we are inspired by how far she has traveled and by her continued commitment to justice and equality. Her story teaches us all that no matter where we come from, no matter our gender, race, or religion, nothing is impossible for those willing to strive hard to accomplish their personal dreams and aspirations."
NYC Council Member Vanessa Gibson said, "The children of the Bronx need and deserve role models that demonstrate courage, conviction, and tenacity. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor is one of those role models. In her, each Bronx child can see their own true potential and aspire to reach the same monumental heights as the Justice. I'm honored today to join the Bronx Children's Museum in honoring the Justice for the important role she plays in inspiring the children of my borough to reach higher and try harder for the betterment of themselves and their community."
"The Bronx Children's Museum serves as a beacon for our youth in the Bronx. It helps our future leaders by guiding them to dream big and reach their goals through culture, science and education. Being able to provide valuable opportunities for Bronx children to learn and expand their minds this summer through its Dream Big arts enrichment program will prove invaluable, as they explore their home and the life of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor - a personal hero of mine - as well as venture into the expansive worlds of drama, the visual arts and literature," said Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner (D-Bronx, 77th AD). "Giving our children the tools they need to succeed over the summer break will provide our youth with the necessary skills and educational development supports they need. As the state elected representative for the 77th Assembly District, which includes the Claremont, Concourse, Highbridge, Mount Eden and Morris Heights sections of The Bronx, I am happy the Bronx Children's Museum will continue their good work in our community for our families."
Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa remarked, "I am thrilled to take part in today's event honoring Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor. As Bronx-born Latinas, we both know the potential this Borough has to inspire greatness. For seven years now, the Bronx Museum's Dream Big summer arts-enrichment program has provided countless children with that inspiration - and I know it will continue to do so for years to come."
Bronx Community College President Dr. Thomas A. Isekenegbe said, "It is an honor to welcome Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to our historic campus and to partner with the Bronx Children's Museum on their Annual Big Dream Day. Earning a college degree is a big dream we embrace for all of our children, and it is a privilege for Bronx Community College to have a role in planting the seeds that will make this dream come true for those gathered here today."
The Dream Big Initiative is made possible this year through the generosity of the Bronx Community College and the Bronx Children's Museum funders: Bronx Children's Museum Board of Trustees, the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, Macy's, the Montefiore Medical Center and The Pinkerton Foundation.