Learning From Jackie Robinson
A group of kids from New York gains an understanding of true grit and heroism on and off the ballfield
Kids all across the country will go to baseball games this spring and summer. For one group of kids in New York, going to the ballpark was about more than watching a game.
On Wednesday, April 15, nearly 200 middle school and high school students from the New York area went to Citi Field, the new home of the New York Mets, as part of the first Citi Field Kids program at the park. They were there on Jackie Robinson Night to see some baseball—and learn about Jackie Robinson.
The Citi Field Kids program was started by Citigroup, the Jackie Robinson Foundation, United Neighborhood Houses, and the Mets. The purpose of the program is to inspire and motivate kids to reach their fullest potential. Organizers of the program will hold Citi Field Kids events throughout the 2009 baseball season with 1,200 area students participating in the program.
Each event will give Citi Field Kids the opportunity to hear about the life and lessons of Jackie Robinson.
Jackie Robinson was the first African-American player in major-league baseball. He broke baseball's color barrier in 1947 when he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
When he played for the Dodgers, he dealt with threats and racism. People would yell at him and throw things at him from the stands. Off the field, he faced those same struggles. But he never quit, and changed baseball forever.
By bravely breaking the color barrier and not giving up, Robinson became an American leader and hero. He showed that people can accomplish great things in the face of adversity as long as they work hard and have courage.
In celebrating Robinson, "we celebrate [how much you can accomplish] through determination, through hard work, [and] through very strong character," Elizabeth Gil, a Jackie Robinson Foundation alumna and New York City teacher, said.
Robinson's legacy is commemorated at Citi Field in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. It's the main entrance to the park, and it's where the Citi Field Kids began learning about Jackie Robinson.
Pictures from his life and career are on display in the Rotunda. But the most important things are the nine words engraved in the walls: Courage, Integrity, Determination, Persistence, Citizenship, Justice, Commitment, Teamwork, and Excellence. Those were Robinson's nine core values. He lived by them, and they helped him break barriers.
Robinson's nine core values were central to the Citi Field Kids' experience at the ballpark. They heard presentations from baseball and business leaders, who spoke to the kids about how they overcame adversity by following Robinson's example.
One of the speakers was Mets General Manager Omar Minaya. He told the kids that because of Jackie Robinson, he was able to overcome poverty and discrimination, to become a baseball player and, eventually, the first Latin American general manager in major-league baseball.
But, he said, you don't have to be a member of a minority group to benefit from Robinson's legacy.
"For me, Jackie Robinson really is for everybody; Jackie Robinson is for America," Minaya said. "You guys are the future. The [Jackie Robinson] Rotunda is not only to look back but to look forward, and for you guys to carry the Jackie Robinson name forward."
By learning about Robinson and listening to leaders like Minaya, the Citi Field Kids saw that it's possible to reach their goals.
I asked one of the Citi Field Kids, N'gozi Feutado, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at MS61, what he thought about the Citi Field Kids program and Jackie Robinson.
"I think it is a great learning experience," he said. "Kids will learn to never give up and about Jackie Robinson's nine principles and to try to do better."
Watch a video report about the importance of Jackie Robinson filed by Kid Reporter Jacqueline Minogue from the first Citi Field Kids program at Citi Field in New York.
Click here for biographies, videos, and lesson plans about Jackie Robinson and his family.
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|Jackie Robinson is a hero to a lot of people because he was able to become the first African-American player in major-league baseball. Who are your heroes? What makes them so special? What can you learn from them?|
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Jacqueline Minogue is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.