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Sharon Robinson inspires with father's legacy

Legend's daughter visits Houston to discuss Breaking Barriers program
MLB.com @alysonfooter

HOUSTON -- It would be impossible to accurately count the number of young people Sharon Robinson has personally encountered during her two-plus decades as an educational programming consultant for Major League Baseball.

What is not up for debate is the impact she's had on hundreds of young lives through those personal appearances, and through MLB's Breaking Barriers essay-writing program.

HOUSTON -- It would be impossible to accurately count the number of young people Sharon Robinson has personally encountered during her two-plus decades as an educational programming consultant for Major League Baseball.

What is not up for debate is the impact she's had on hundreds of young lives through those personal appearances, and through MLB's Breaking Barriers essay-writing program.

Robinson, the daughter of the late Jackie Robinson, has spent most of her adult life honoring the legacy of her father, a Hall of Famer who identified as much as a Civil Rights activist as he did as a world-class athlete.

Through both in-person appearances and myriad children's books that she has authored, Sharon Robinson has told her father's story comprehensively but also in terms that young people can understand.

She was back at it on Friday in Houston, where she met with students from Harris Academy at a gathering at the Astros Youth Academy.

Video: Robinson supports Breaking Barriers Education Program

Sharon talked about her father in both glowing and realistic terms, explaining that Jackie had both a great life and a tough life. He was blessed with unimaginable athletic skills, but also, later, he battled serious health issues. And he had to find a way to balance it all.

That's Sharon's basic message to kids -- in a lifetime of highs and lows, of the good and the bad, the goal should always be to persevere.

"You go up a hill, go down a hill," Robinson said to the Harris Academy students. "That's what life is like. There are times when life is great, and times when it's tough. When the hard times hit you -- like when you don't do well on a math test -- you pull yourself up and say, 'I can do better.' You pick yourself up, and you do better."

Robinson's Texas tour -- she was in Dallas on Wednesday -- was in support of the "Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life" character education program and essay contest. Sharon made special trips this week to the two Texas cities in recognition of Black History Month, touring the Youth Academy facilities while speaking to students about the teachings of her father.

She also helped the kids craft their own essays about overcoming obstacles, which will be submitted to the Breaking Barriers essay contest.

While there wasn't time built in for Robinson to meet individually with each student, she managed to do so anyway. The children who were selected from Harris Academy to attend this special meeting were among the higher achievers at the school, and Robinson came away impressed with their writing abilities and thoughtfulness when answering her questions.

"They are starting to think about things like self-confidence," she said. "I saw that in some of the essays. They showed examples of how this child was working through an obstacle, and that makes me feel really good, because while they're talking about someone else's life, and how they can apply it to their own life."

Breaking Barriers is a bilingual character-education program that teaches children about the legacy of Jackie Robinson, including his personal journey in breaking baseball's color barrier in 1947.

The essay contest will reward 10 student-winners with prizes, including laptop computers, books written by Sharon and special trips to the 2018 MLB All-Star Game in Washington, D.C., and the 2018 World Series for the two Grand Prize Winners in grades 4-6 and 7-9, respectively.

For more information about Breaking Barriers, including how to enter, go to scholastic.com/breakingbarriers.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.