Sesame Street and the USO partnered in 2008 and created the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families, a free traveling USO show. Today, the tour is happily celebrating reaching 500,000 military families around the world. The tour is unique in that its messages are tailored exclusively for military families and features a character named Katie, a military child who is moving to a new location with her family.
To mark this special occasion we caught up with Anja Young who plays Katie. Anja can relate with Katie because Young grew-up in the military and knows exactly how Katie feels each time she gets settled and then has to move away from her friends and school.
Which one of your parents serves in the military?
My father, Wilbert Young, served in the Air Force and retired as a Senior Master Sergeant after 26 years of service.
Where were you born?
I was born at Moody Air Force Base, GA. I am the youngest of three children. I have two older brothers, Wesley, 28 and Roosevelt, 30.
Where has your military family lived?
We've lived all over the place. The military bases we called home were Moody Air Force Base, GA; Mountain Home Air Force Base, ID; Nellis Air Force Base, NV; Middenhall Royal Air Force, UK; and Fort Meade, MD.
As a military child, how did you cope with the frequent moves and having to make new friends?
I coped with moving by taking dance and drama classes as well as playing sports at the local base Boys & Girls Clubs and youth centers. By doing that I was able to escape from the pain of moving and make new friends at the same time.
Was your father ever deployed?
My Dad was deployed several times throughout his time in military. My mother always tried to keep us busy and in a routine that was not much different from the schedule we had when dad was home.
Tell me about Katie -- what is her experience as a military child?
Katie is a 6 year old little girl who just found out her family will be moving again. She is very sad about the news. Elmo and other famous Sesame Street characters tell her that moving is not a bad thing and that she can keep in touch with old friends after she moves.
What has it been like to play Katie?
It has been amazing playing Katie. Our lives are truly one in the same. I am so glad I am able to be a part of this Sesame Street/USO show that I can connect with on a personal level and be able to help so many children.
What is like going back to some of these bases where you once lived?
Going back to the military bases where I once lived brings back a rush of emotions. It brings me joy to be able to literally walk down memory lane. It makes me even prouder to be a part of a military family and this Sesame Street/USO show.
What song from the Sesame Street/USO show has the most meaning to you and why?
"What I Am" is my favorite song. It's an upbeat song that empowers you to never ever give up when times get tough, and it reminds you that there are so many good qualities you have to offer. I hope that when times get rough at their new base, military kids will be able to remember this song and be ok. Keeping your head up high through the hard times is truly the most important thing to always remember.
Why do you think reaching the 500k milestone for the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families is so important?
I know that visiting and entertaining 500,000 service members and their families is a wonderful accomplishment and I'm honored and privileged to be a part of it. . This show allows for open conversations about moving in the household. It is important that military kids be able to express their emotions and be able to know that they are not alone. Reaching the 500K mark means that we have reached a great number of military families who may have felt they were the only ones dealing with the issues of moving so frequently, but after the show, they know that they aren't alone and that Sesame Street and the USO are there for them.