Rita Moreno Shares Her Passion for Childhood Education
By Eric Steckel | May 27, 2021
Rita Moreno is a national treasure. She has won Oscar, Grammy, Emmy, and Tony awards as an actress, singer, and performer. Although she has been in the limelight for nearly 70 years, her story is a uniquely American one. And Children Rising was honored to have Rita as our special guest at Hope for Children Now LIVE.
Rita came to the United States when she was five years old. “I didn’t know it then but my mom was fleeing the stinging poverty of Puerto Rico,” she explained. “My mom was looking for a better life for the two of us…’a place where everyone is good to you and you have opportunities, and it’s all going to be much better.’ It didn’t happen quite that way, but it’s been an extraordinary experience.”
Rita’s mother quickly found work as a seamstress in the garment district. Rita experienced winter for the first time, and sometimes had to run from bullies. “It was sort of like ‘West Side Story.’ We were the working poor, the people they’re now calling lazy.”
“Isn’t teaching children to read a basic human service? It is up to us who care to look out for them in any way we can.” — Rita Moreno
Growing up, mentors and role models didn’t exist, at least for little girls like her. “People assume that everybody has a mentor, especially when they’re in show business, not me. So that’s really why I am here to celebrate and support your good work of hope, labor, love.”
Of course, Rita is best known for her role as Anita in West Side Story. However, many also know her for her spirited performances in the Electric Company, the groundbreaking educational children’s television show.
When she became a mother, she had no idea how gratifying it would be. “From the day my daughter was born, I started working in my profession for her in a very special way to make her proud. And it’s why I wanted to do a show called ‘The Electric Company.’”
At the time it was a risky career move. “All my friends and colleagues said, ‘Are you crazy? Don’t do a children’s show. You will never work as an adult again in show business.” But she was undeterred. “I’m talking about doing a service, a community service. Isn’t teaching children to read a basic human service?”
Fortunately for Rita and her adoring fans, she did indeed work again. In fact, she is in the process of filming the updated remake of “West Side Story.” But she hasn’t lost sight of the need to nurture and equip children and youth, especially the marginalized.
“It is up to us who care to look out for them in any way we can.”
That perfectly sums up the essence of our community enablement model. For all of you in our community who care, this is the perfect opportunity to put your faith into action. It’s never been simpler – or more important – to become a tutor or mentor today. You can empower a child to rise to their God-given potential.