Jackie Robinson’s Legacy Lives On In ‘Breaking Barriers’ Contest

The annual essay contest has reached more than 34 million youth.

Seattle Mariners donning the number 42 Jerseys at Safeco Field during Jackie Robinson Day 2018. Photo courtesy of Major League Baseball.

Clubs across Major League Baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson Day on April 15 with all of the players and on-field personnel in the league wearing the late baseball Hall of Famer and activist Jackie Robinson’s iconic number, 42.

Throughout the league, practice attire and various uniform elements featured a 42 logo, and on-field pregame ceremonies took place — some of which included Jackie Robinson Day Foundation Scholars — as well as activities in some of the clubs’ respective communities.

Robinson’s wife, Rachel Robinson, and their daughter and son, Sharon and David, attended Jackie Robinson Day ceremonies at Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets, sharing Jackie’s story of breaking the color barrier in baseball more than 70 years ago — and how his courage changed sports and civil rights in America.

But Robinson knew his legacy wasn’t just about influencing the treatment of athletes that came after him. He urged the league to consider broader steps toward equality in management and ownership of baseball teams, recognizing that sustainable change would come only from leadership that embraced his ideals.

50 years later, the “Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life” essay contest and educational program developed in 1997 by the MLB, Scholastic, and Sharon Robinson, utilizes baseball as a metaphor for life to help support and develop future leaders to carry on in Robinson’s footsteps.

It’s based on his values: Citizenship, commitment, courage, determination, excellence, integrity, justice, persistence, and teamwork, and has reached more than 34 million youth and 4.6 million educators in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. The program’s annual essay contest provides opportunities for students from all backgrounds in from fourth grade through ninth to submit an essay about barriers or obstacles in their lives, and how they used the values exemplified by Robinson to face those obstacles.

[new_image position="standard" id="null"]Sharon Robinson and 2017 Grand Prize Winner of the “Breaking Barriers” essay contest, Tank Wright (7-9th grade; Sylacauga, Alabama). Photo courtesy of Major League Baseball.[/new_image]

After receiving thousands of essays from all over the country, this year’s grand prize winning submissions focused on compelling stories about escaping war-torn Eritrea, Africa, and living with a challenging physical condition, written by Selihom Kidane from Charlotte, North Carolina, (fifth grade) and Jesse Quist from Cheyenne, Wyoming. (ninth grade), respectively.

The 2018 Breaking Barriers essay contest is also recognizing eight additional national winners. Each of the winners will receive a new laptop computer (courtesy of Microsoft) and additional prizes for their classes, including Breaking Barriers T-shirts and books written by Sharon Robinson.

“The extraordinary perseverance and inner strength that these children have demonstrated in their young lives is inspiring,” said Sharon Robinson in a statement. “The winners, along with everyone who submitted essays, continue to exemplify the true meaning of the Breaking Barriers program.” Robinson is the author of several widely-praised books for children. In her novel, “The Hero Two Doors Down,” she tells the story of Stephen Satlow, a young Dodgers fan in the 1940s, who befriended the great Jackie Robinson after his family moved to Satlow’s all-Jewish neighborhood.

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