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'Breaking Barriers' essay winner named

Fourth-grader Meiselwitz awarded top prize
MLB.com
Nearly 8,000 essays were submitted for the "Breaking Barriers" contest.

On Tuesday it was announced that fourth-grader Natalie Meiselwitz, of Cleveland, Wisc., was the grand-prize winner.

Meiselwitz was one of nine finalists to be recognized this year after writing about her efforts to "overcome personal barriers using the values exemplified by baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson," according to a news release.

As the winner, Meiselwitz was invited to meet Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig in Milwaukee, and she will join Sharon Robinson, Jackie's daughter, at the All-Star Game festivities in St. Louis in July.

The essay contest is a major component of "Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life," a multicurricular character-education program that's currently in its 13th year and was developed by MLB and Scholastic Inc.

The program is led by Sharon Robinson.

"Our grand-prize winner, Natalie Meiselwitz, described herself as a 'healthy, happy, soccer-playing 9-year-old' when a horrible rash alerted doctors to a problem with her heart," Sharon Robinson, who serves as educational programming consultant for MLB, said in the release. "In her essay, Natalie detailed the months that followed and the courage it took to face open-heart surgery. She wrote of needing 'to be brave for my whole family.' Natalie found courage in other children at the hospital and from within herself."

The contest was open to children in grades 4-8 in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, and the essays needed to convey the following values: commitment, integrity, persistence, citizenship, courage, excellence, justice, teamwork and determination.

Prizes include a laptop and a class set of the book "Promises to Keep," a photographic biography of Sharon Robinson, who visited Meiselwitz's school to speak to the students about her father.

Following is an excerpt from Meiselwitz's winning essay.

My story is hard to believe, and I write it with tears coming down my face because I am here to tell you the story of me. I am a nine year old girl who had her broken heart fixed. Everyone has barriers in life, or they will someday. My barrier happened early in life, and it taught me a great lesson. I found out I am a strong girl, and I now realize that life is a whole lot better because I am so happy to be here. I am glad I was given another chance with my family, and I plan on being one great doctor someday.

"Breaking Barriers," one of the MLB-supported community programs that helps carry the legacy of Jackie Robinson, has been in place since 1997. Since that time it has reached more than 14 million youths and 2.6 million educators in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

For more information on "Breaking Barriers" and other MLB community programs, click here.

"Jackie Robinson played the game of baseball with a passion that could only be matched by the values and class he exemplified off the field," MLB President and Chief Operating Officer Bob DuPuy said in the release. "Major League Baseball is committed to the 'Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life' program and the thousands of kids it empowers through the story of Jackie's achievements in baseball, both on and off the field."

Nearly 8,000 essays were submitted for the "Breaking Barriers" contest.

On Tuesday it was announced that fourth-grader Natalie Meiselwitz, of Cleveland, Wisc., was the grand-prize winner.

Meiselwitz was one of nine finalists to be recognized this year after writing about her efforts to "overcome personal barriers using the values exemplified by baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson," according to a news release.

As the winner, Meiselwitz was invited to meet Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig in Milwaukee, and she will join Sharon Robinson, Jackie's daughter, at the All-Star Game festivities in St. Louis in July.

The essay contest is a major component of "Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life," a multicurricular character-education program that's currently in its 13th year and was developed by MLB and Scholastic Inc.

The program is led by Sharon Robinson.

"Our grand-prize winner, Natalie Meiselwitz, described herself as a 'healthy, happy, soccer-playing 9-year-old' when a horrible rash alerted doctors to a problem with her heart," Sharon Robinson, who serves as educational programming consultant for MLB, said in the release. "In her essay, Natalie detailed the months that followed and the courage it took to face open-heart surgery. She wrote of needing 'to be brave for my whole family.' Natalie found courage in other children at the hospital and from within herself."

The contest was open to children in grades 4-8 in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, and the essays needed to convey the following values: commitment, integrity, persistence, citizenship, courage, excellence, justice, teamwork and determination.

Prizes include a laptop and a class set of the book "Promises to Keep," a photographic biography of Sharon Robinson, who visited Meiselwitz's school to speak to the students about her father.

Following is an excerpt from Meiselwitz's winning essay.

My story is hard to believe, and I write it with tears coming down my face because I am here to tell you the story of me. I am a nine year old girl who had her broken heart fixed. Everyone has barriers in life, or they will someday. My barrier happened early in life, and it taught me a great lesson. I found out I am a strong girl, and I now realize that life is a whole lot better because I am so happy to be here. I am glad I was given another chance with my family, and I plan on being one great doctor someday.

"Breaking Barriers," one of the MLB-supported community programs that helps carry the legacy of Jackie Robinson, has been in place since 1997. Since that time it has reached more than 14 million youths and 2.6 million educators in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

For more information on "Breaking Barriers" and other MLB community programs, click here.

"Jackie Robinson played the game of baseball with a passion that could only be matched by the values and class he exemplified off the field," MLB President and Chief Operating Officer Bob DuPuy said in the release. "Major League Baseball is committed to the 'Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life' program and the thousands of kids it empowers through the story of Jackie's achievements in baseball, both on and off the field."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.