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Robinson Scholars inspired by Jackie, each other

Determined students soak up lessons in visit to MLBAM offices in New York

NEW YORK -- Nii-ofei Dodoo, 19, is a sophomore majoring in biopsychology and community health at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. During an afternoon visit to Major League Baseball Advanced Media's headquarters in Manhattan, he sat at a conference room table with his fellow Jackie Robinson Scholars and asked MLBAM leaders for tips on job interviewing.

The others sat intently, looking for the same kind of information. There were about 23 of them who visited, hours before they and many of their peers would be feted at the annual Jackie Robinson Foundation Annual Awards Dinner over at the Waldorf-Astoria.

"There are people just like me who are striving for greatness, striving for aspirations and not letting any obstacles deter them," Dodoo said, "so it creates a real family in that we can all stick together and get to our goals."

They have big goals, huge aspirations. They go around a conference room and introduce themselves, and they list their majors and specialties and their plans and it is beyond impressive. They are the next wave of leaders taking a torch lit by the very man who broke Major League Baseball's color barrier and in so doing led a civil rights movement.

"I've been a part of the Jackie Robinson Foundation for four years," said Matletha Fuller, currently working on her master's degree in public administration at Florida State. "This organization is probably one of the best scholarships I have ever received. The way they let us interact and ask questions, you can get a broader perspective. Just being able to come here and learn is great."

MLB is a major supporter of the Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship program. As part of the program, outstanding young scholars from across the country participate in the annual Mentoring and Leadership Conference, planned and hosted in New York by JRF. This conference provides the scholars a unique opportunity to gather and share their experiences and participate in a series of networking opportunities with supportive companies and organizations.

Since 2009, MLB, one of the largest supporters of JRF scholars, has sponsored a networking event and luncheon for MLB scholars in town for the conference. At MLBAM, the scholars enjoyed lunch and had a mentoring session with MLBAM integrated marketing, sponsorship sales, editorial, product development and social media executives, followed by a tour/broadcast studio participation opportunity.

"Whenever I even mention I am part of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, I don't even have to explain," Fuller said. "Just his name alone carries so much weight and so much prestige and honor and respect. Being able to say I am a Jackie Robinson Scholar, number one, has just been an awesome, fulfilling experience for me. I don't think I could ever stand in his shoes or carry on as much as he did, but if I could even get 10 percent of the change that he did and made for Major League Baseball, I would be completely honored.

"Everyone here is so passionate, everyone here is so intelligent. They inspire you. I'm like, 'I've gotta get on my game. They're freshmen. I have to get myself together.' They're starting non-profits. They're starting businesses. It's just an inspiring time, to network and grow as an individual."

During the question-and-answer session of the meeting, Dodoo asked about what additional steps aspiring students can take to improve themselves during job interviews.

"Each year that goes by in college, I'm getting closer and closer to the workforce in the real world, and stuff like this just gets me ready mentally that it's going to be competitive, it's going to be cutthroat," he said. "But being a Jackie Robinson Scholar, we are given the tools to get the edge on people and become better and reach for the clouds. If not, just keep going. It makes the reality clearer and clearer that we are going to be future leaders of America one day, hopefully."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of Read and join other baseball fans on his community blog.