JRF scholars take part in special day
Foundation continues Robinson's support of education
LOS ANGELES -- As part of Major League Baseball's 60th anniversary celebration of Jackie Robinson entering the Majors, 14 Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF) scholars took part in the pregame ceremony at Dodger Stadium on Sunday evening.JRF President and CEO Della Britton Baeza said the events were a good chance to celebrate the accomplishments of the JRF scholars and continue Robinson's support of educational achievement. "It really is a reminder of what Jackie Robinson's living legacy -- the Jackie Robinson Foundation -- is doing today," said Baeza. "In building on his great legacy, we are perpetuating that by helping to educate the next generation. "[The scholars'] participation is key. It reminds people that this is not just about what Jackie did 60 years ago in opening up opportunities, but that we are still taking advantage of the opportunities that he created." In addition to the Los Angeles event, JRF scholars participated in Jackie Robinson Day pregame ceremonies at ballparks around the country Sunday. "It's inspiring to me to see the scholars so excited about participating in a historic event like this, you can almost see the pride that they exude being part of this commemoration," Baeza said. "It's helpful to be able to trumpet the success of our scholars to the general public. ... We hope that it will encourage others to support our mission, both financially as well as their enthusiastic endorsement of what we do." JRF scholars currently are in 33 states around the country, attending 93 different colleges and universities. The JRF scholars participating in the Jackie Robinson Day celebration at Dodger Stadium are all students at colleges in the Los Angeles area: Babatunde Akinloye, a junior at UCLA; Diaris Alexander, a sophomore at UCLA; Tifhanie Coleman, a senior at UCLA; Mercedes Hobson, a junior at UCLA; Felecia Hunter, a freshman at USC; Aaron Lombard, a senior at UCLA; Raymond Pounds, a senior at UCLA; Nicolette Robinson, a freshman at UCLA; Steven Stevenson, a senior at UCLA; Martina Trejo, a sophomore at UCLA; Tulani Watkins, a sophomore at USC; Pilar Whitaker, a sophomore at UCLA; Jennifer Williams, a senior at UCLA; and Justin Williams, a freshman at UCLA. Hobson, 21, a Dodgers-sponsored JRF scholar, was happy to take part in Jackie Robinson Day festivities at Dodger Stadium. "Just to see people are truly celebrating [Robinson] and see how many doors he's opened, not only in my life, but the impact he had on baseball, it's inspiring," Hobson said. "It's nice to be part of the celebration of that magnitude." Due to the experiences in their own lives, many of the JRF scholars have begun local efforts to help and inspire people in their communities and beyond. Hobson started her own non-profit foundation in 2004 called "Talented 10," which stands for "Talented Advancing Leaders Enlightened through Networking Teaching, Education and Determination."
"[The foundation helps] kids from ninth grade all the way through college by giving them the financial, academic and emotional support that they need," Hobson said. "Giving them career development, mentoring, networking and academic support groups."Hobson said she is the first person in her family to go to college. She said she would like to pursue her philanthropic efforts full time in the future. "Because of the background I come from, there wasn't a lot of special figures in my family to look up to," she said. "I come from a background dealing with the foster care system, abuse and just lack of real role models." Hobson wants to work with youth from similar backgrounds and use what she has learned through her experiences to help others. Robinson, 18, also a Dodgers-sponsored JRF scholar, has gotten involved in philanthropic efforts of her own. "I started an organization with a group of my friends called TAG -- 'Teens Against Genocide,'" Robinson said. "Basically we raise funds for the people in Darfur who are going through this horrible genocide. We try to just build awareness and get help for all the people out there." Robinson and a few of her friends from various high schools in the Los Angeles area started the organization during her senior year of high school. "We all decided to start this organization and we got a lot of people to join in on it," she said. "We held a rally at the Federal building in Westwood, Calif. Now we've kind of handed it off to other seniors of high schools and they're continuing to build funds and raise awareness." Robinson said she wants to get into a philanthropy-related career and also currently is doing some acting. She has made a guest appearance on the CBS show, "Cold Case," has done other television work and singing through her school, as well. Robinson said she was very excited to participate in Jackie Robinson Day. "Jackie Robinson, he was such an amazing person, and Rachel Robinson, she is such a wonderful woman," she said. "This foundation has provided such an amazing family and support system for all of us, it's not just about the money getting through college. ... I've gained mentors and friends from all over the country."
Christie Cowles is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.