Pictured above: Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President of U.S. Social Impact at Sesame Workshop with Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris

Sesame Street in Communities announces partnership
with ACE Awareness Foundation and Porter-Leath to provide resources and services to families and children

Memphis, Tennessee- Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization behind Sesame Street, has announced that Memphis, Tennessee is the next community selected for Sesame Street in Communities (SSIC). SSIC is a nationwide initiative to support parents, caregivers, and community providers in their efforts to give all children, especially the most vulnerable, a strong and healthy start. Sesame Street in Communities selected Memphis because of the community’s existing collaborative efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of young children and families, and is partnering with the ACE Awareness Foundation and Porter-Leath to introduce the new initiative intended to advance support for local families and children under age six.

On Tuesday, December 4, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris will join representatives from Sesame Workshop, ACE Awareness Foundation, and Porter-Leath for a kick-off press conference to introduce the partnership. The press conference will be held at 10:00am at the Porter-Leath Early Childhood Academy with an interactive workshop for parents immediately following. 

“We’re thrilled to work with Sesame Street in Communities to bring more early childhood resources to young children living in Shelby County,” said Mayor Harris

“The Sesame Street characters are known to and loved by children everywhere. As a parent, I have seen firsthand how they stimulate wonderment and imagination, the building blocks for learning. SSIC will be providing our community with a range of tools from these beloved characters not only for amusement and entertainment, but for learning; it makes so much sense for Shelby County government to take a leadership role in assisting those who care for our children to reach and teach them as well as promote their social-emotional health by adopting the SSIC program.”

ACE Awareness Foundation and Porter-Leath will integrate Sesame Street in Communities into their programming, in-person events, and trainings. The ACE Awareness Foundation, which supports efforts to prevent adverse childhood experiences as well as mitigate their negative effects, will embed the Sesame Street in Communities resources into their programming at four Universal Parenting Places(UPPs) sites in Memphis. Since 2017, the UPPs have served local families and the community at-large by creating nurturing parenting environments and offering activities that strengthen family connections and enhance child development through counseling, emotional support, stress-reduction and parent-child activities. 

“It’s an exciting time at the ACE Awareness Foundation because of the partnership we’re developing with Sesame Street in Communities,” said Dr. Renée Wilson-Simmons, Executive Director of ACE Awareness Foundation. 

“It’s the name—Sesame Street—and all that it represents that is a plus for Memphis families, especially those who are coming to the Universal Parenting Places seeking help with family-related issues and concerns, both big and small, and could benefit from the additional resources that Sesame Street in Communitieswill provide to our sites.”

Porter-Leath, Tennessee’s oldest child-serving agency reaching 50,000 children and families each year, will embed Sesame Street in Communities resources into its professional development trainings for over 160 staff and use the Sesame content in its Cornerstone, Teacher Excellence, Books from Birth, Connections, and Preschool programs. Using Big Bird’s Comfy, Cozy Nest materials, Porter-Leath will also create five safe and comfortable spaces for children in Porter-Leath centers to help them cope during stressful experiences.

"Porter-Leath is thrilled about being a partner with Sesame Street in Communitiesas they launch in Memphis,” said Sean Lee, President, Porter-Leath.

“Porter-Leath is the leader in helping Memphis children and families succeed and we know that the Sesame Street in Communitiespartnership will continue to scale quality early childhood education resources in our area."

Sesame Street in Communities will also provide virtual courses, webinars, and videosthat can be embedded into programming to help children and families navigate challenges large and small. Using the power of the beloved Muppets of Sesame Street, the resources are designed to build coping skills and foster nurturing connections between children and the caring adults in their lives. All resources are available for free in English and Spanish at

“We are thrilled to develop partnerships to bring Sesame Street in Communitiesto Memphis, a city dedicated to helping its youngest residents get a strong and healthy start in life,” said Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President of U.S. Social Impact, Sesame Workshop. 

“By working hand-in-hand with providers like ACE Awareness Foundation and Porter-Leath, together we can build a circle of care around all children—particularly the most vulnerable.”

Sesame Street in Communities is made possible by generous support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated solely to health, and the Joan Ganz Cooney Fund for Vulnerable Children. In addition to Memphis, Sesame Street in Communitieshas partnered with Guilford County, NC, Los Angeles, CA, Kansas City, MO, Transylvania County, NC, and the Mississippi Delta. Over the next five years, Sesame Street in Communities aims to reach 35 local communities across the country.

View press coverage from formal announcement on Tuesday, December 4, 2018: Commercial Appeal, Daily Memphian, WREG, Chalkbeat



For over 160 years, Porter-Leath has been the primary resource for Memphis' at-risk children and families. By focusing on the essential building blocks of healthy development, Porter-Leath not only gives them access to the tools they need, but also a sense of hope. Porter-Leath helps build stronger children, stronger families and a stronger Memphis through its mission of empowering children and families to achieve a healthy, optimal and independent lifestyle.


The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Awareness Foundationis helping to create a Greater Memphis community—and catalyze a statewide movement—that understands the deep and long-lasting impactthat childhood trauma can have across the life span and supports innovative strategies that prevent toxic stress or lessen its negative effects on children and their families.  To support the healthy development of Memphis children, their families, and the community, the ACE Awareness Foundation developed Universal Parenting Places—UPPs.  These judgment-free zones are places where parents can go for help with family-related issues and concerns, both big and small. They receive professional counseling, information, emotional support, and referrals; participate in stress-reduction exercises, parent-child activities, and discussion groups; and build social support networks that extend far beyond the walls of the UPPs. Visit the ACE Awareness Foundation online at


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


For more than 45 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working alongside others to build a national Culture of Health that provides everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at on Facebook at


The Joan Ganz Cooney Fund for Vulnerable Children was established in 2018 to support content development, training for service providers, research, and implementation for Sesame Street in Communities. Made possible by a generous gift from Joan Ganz Cooney’s late husband Peter G. Peterson, the fund honors Ms. Cooney’s pioneering work as Sesame Street’s co-founder by furthering Sesame Workshop’s commitment to helping children overcome challenges big and small.