YES Prep Public Schools
YES Prep

The annual luncheon was keynoted by Sesame Street actress, author Sonia Manzano

Sonia Manzano inspired, educated and delighted children and their families for decades as “Maria” on Sesame Street. On Nov. 2, the children’s and young adult book author addressed supporters of YES Prep Public Schools’ students at the Fifth Annual Leading Houston Forward Celebration Luncheon that raised more than $1 million.

Recognized as one of the “Greatest Latino Role Models Ever,” Manzano broke ground as one of the first Hispanic characters on national television. The Emmy-award winner continues her work to enrich diversity on television, on the stage, and in public education. Manzano addressed 300 YES Prep supporters at the luncheon, sharing her story, including educational inequities and overcoming adversity to become one of the most influential Latinas.

“At YES Prep, a record number of families are turning to our dedicated teachers and staff for the kind of education and care that can change students’ lives, helping them achieve at the highest levels on their path to college and careers of their choice,” Mark DiBella, YES Prep Public Schools CEO, said.

YES Prep welcomed students to two brand new elementary schools this year in addition to the two inaugural ones opened last school year. The nationally recognized public charter school system plans to open six additional campuses to serve 22,000 Houston children in pre-K through fifth grade by 2024.

YES Prep’s expansion is made possible with the invaluable help of generous supporters. Capital One, a longtime supporter of YES Prep Public Schools, was honored with the Chris Barbic Legacy Award. The award is named after the school district’s founder, Chris Barbic, a fervent advocate for quality public education for every student no matter where they live.

The luncheon, chaired by Debi and Mickey Barrett, will benefit YES Prep Public Schools students and recent graduates in college. The Barretts are champions of YES Prep students and their families, and Mickey currently serves on the Board of Directors. Other notable guests in the crowd included: Debi and Mickey Barrett, Debra and Mark Gregg, Jim Nicholas, Yasmin Huebinger, Leslie Smith, Lisa Helfman, Denise Hester, Ann and Richard Vaughan, Meredith and Ben Marshall, Dylan and Jordan Seff, Brian and Shirley Colona, Melanie Trent, Natalie and Steve Mohtashami, and Frank and Jill Stagg.

The evening prior to the luncheon, several top donors attended a private dinner and fireside chat hosted by Barbara and Michael Gamson. Guests joined Sonia Manzano and Professor Ruth N. Lopez-Turley, director of the Houston Education Research Consortium at Rice University, in a discussion about past and present educational inequities and efforts to support students from diverse backgrounds.

Check out coverage of the event by PaperCity Magazine.

The morning of the luncheon, Manzano visited our YES Prep Southside Elementary to read one of her children's book to first graders. Click here to view pictures of the event.

To learn more about our annual Leading Houston Celebration, click here.