Behind the Scenes at Sesame Street
Daria Labazova (C’17) discusses what she learned at her internship at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization that produces Sesame Street. Photo by Melissa Nyman.
October 20, 2015—As a Staten Island native, Daria Labazova (C’17) is no stranger to New York City. Last summer, however, she experienced her hometown in a new way—as a commuter.
Labazova spent several months as an intern at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization that is home to the iconic children’s television program Sesame Street. With a mission to “help kids grow stronger, smarter, and kinder,” Sesame Workshop provides educational programs and services all over the world.
Sesame Workshop operates in more than 150 countries to address children’s critical developmental needs and offer “lessons about health, emotional well-being, and respect and understanding.” The organization works to ensure that its services are tailored to each specific country.
“One of my favorite parts of the internship was seeing how interdisciplinary and interdepartmental every project was,” Labazova said. “There was a massive collaboration of really dedicated and smart people.”
For her part, Labazova was immersed in the world of fundraising at Sesame, working as a development intern. Her duties included conducting research on companies with corporate-responsibility programs as well as learning what other initiatives current donors support.
“Because of Sesame’s notoriety in children’s education and entertainment, very few people know that it’s a nonprofit,” she explained.
As part of a small team, Labazova was able to get to know her colleagues and learn not only about fundraising, but nonprofits in general, which she says was an “amazing experience.”
Another benefit of interning at Sesame was the company’s built-in shadowing program, which allows interns to follow various staff members for a day.
“One meeting I shadowed everyone who was working in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and India,” said Labazova. “There are co-productions in those countries, which means that Sesame has a team in New York that works with the people on the ground in each country to produce a local show there. They’re working to make it culturally suitable for that country—it was fascinating to see how it comes together.”
Part of the reason Labazova wanted to work for a nonprofit organization was to gain a different perspective on the working world. Originally a business major, Labazova transferred to the College midway through her sophomore year to pursue her interests in government and international studies.
“It’s been great because I still have a minor in business, I’m getting a certificate from the SFS in Russian and Eastern European studies, and I’m studying government—I’ve always had an interest in political systems,” Labazova explained.
During her time at Sesame, Labazova was able to apply things she’s learned from all disciplines as she got to know the organization’s culture.
“Working at Sesame was a perfect blank canvas,” she said. “I got to do informational interviews with anyone in the company that I found interesting. As interns, they really wanted us to feel part of the team.”
While Labazova doesn’t yet know if the nonprofit world is a long-term fit, she already feels Sesame Workshop has been critical to her personal and professional development.
“Seeing a place where people were happy to come in and do the work was very uplifting,” she said. “It was inspiring to see that as my junior year was starting.”
Labazova has taken some of that passion on her next adventure—she’s currently studying abroad in Budapest, Hungary. As a first-generation child of Russian parents, Labazova is particularly excited to have the chance to live in Eastern Europe as she continues to hone in on her interests.
A few months out from her experience with Sesame, Labazova calls the summer “a great start to figuring out a path.”
“I’d never worked around so many people who genuinely believed in the work they did. Everyone just felt like they were part of something bigger than themselves—there were so many passionate and devoted people. That’s definitely something I want to recreate.”