MLB announces Breaking Barriers winners

April 18th, 2016
Sharon Robinson poses for a photo with Commissioner Rob Manfred and '15 winner Malcolm Venable, 10.

Kendal Young is a fifth-grader in Spring Lake, a West Michigan village where growing up as one of the few African-Americans became the subject of her powerful essay. Sadie Chamberlain is an eighth-grader in West Burke, Vt., and her writing was an inspirational account of overcoming stereotypes related to life with cerebral palsy.

Both girls were selected as the two Grand Prize winners from more than 17,000 entries around the U.S. and Canada in the Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life Essay Contest, announced by Major League Baseball and Scholastic.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Breaking Barriers -- the educational program led by Sharon Robinson, daughter of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson. Sharon, MLB's Educational Programming Consultant and an author, will join Young and Chamberlain when both are recognized at the 87th MLB All-Star Game at Petco Park in San Diego and the 112th World Series, respectively.

"Major League Baseball is delighted to name these outstanding young students as winners in this 20th anniversary of the Breaking Barriers program," said MLB vice president of community affairs Tom Brasuell. "A significant and lasting component of Jackie's legacy is the importance of education. These 20 young men and women, and all Breaking Barriers winners before them, stand as an outstanding representation of the Robinson family's commitment to changing lives through education."

"It has been an incredible honor to recognize these wonderful young writers," Sharon Robinson said. "By sharing their personal struggles with us, they've shown tremendous courage. I am also deeply grateful for my mother's support of the Breaking Barriers program and to have spent 20 amazing years working with MLB, Scholastic, Church & Dwight, our clubs and MLB players."

Photo gallery: Breaking Barriers winners

The Breaking Barriers educational program is designed to teach students in Grades 4 through 9 about the obstacles faced by Jackie Robinson as he broke baseball's color barrier in 1947. The program culminates with students writing essays that illustrate how they were able to overcome obstacles or barriers in their own lives through the example set forth by Robinson, focusing on nine values he demonstrated: citizenship, commitment, courage, determination, excellence, integrity, justice, persistence and teamwork.

Young and Chamberlain led the pack of 20 Breaking Barriers national essay winners this year -- an expanded number in celebration of the program's 20th anniversary in 2016. The full list of national winners also includes:

MVP prize winners: Renah Kozemchak, Grade 6, Ruffsdale, Pa.; and Precious Rodriguez, Grade 8, Fontana, Calif.

All-Star prize winners: Miranda Anderson, Grade 5, West Palm Beach, Fla.; Mary Athorp, Grade 5, Howards Grove, Wis.; Matthew Boutros, Grade 7, Toledo, Ohio; Nathan Chan, Grade 6, Omaha, Neb.; Daniel Danko, Grade 5, Port Jervis, N.Y.; Meghan Farley, Grade 6, Chicago; Sonakshi Garr, Grade 8, Wauconda, Ill.; Tatyana-Marie Gervais, Grade 8, Hoosick Falls, N.Y.; Jake Harper, Grade 6, Glendale, Calif.; Suraiya Hossain, Grade 8, Bridgeport, Conn.; Calyn Jones, Grade 6, Ruffsdale, Pa.; Senia Manson, Grade 7, Houghton, Mich.; Isabel Martinez, Grade 5, Round Lake, Ill.; Shelby McLaurin, Grade 8, Palestine, Texas; Jameson Pope, Grade 7, Quincy, Mass.; and Analyee Trevillyan, Grade 8, Mesa, Ariz.

All 20 winners will receive a laptop computer and Breaking Barriers T-shirts, and books written by Sharon Robinson for their class. The four Grand Prize and MVP Prize winners will each receive a personal classroom visit from Robinson as well, and their teachers will each receive a new laptop.

Church & Dwight is supporting Breaking Barriers by making an annual donation of $150,000 to the program through 2016. Since its inception in 1997, Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life has reached more than 27 million children and 3.6 million educators in the continental United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Go to for more information.