Jackie Robinson's Lasting Gift

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Jackie Robinson's legacy continues today, both on and off the field. Della Britton-Baeza, president of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, talks to Farai Chideya about the foundation's work mentoring children and Robinson's lifelong commitment to education.


And Jackie Robinson's legacy continues today both on and off the field. I recently spoke with Della Britton-Baeza, president and CEO of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. That group helps mentor promising students of color. She told me the foundation's mission comes directly from the groundbreaking sportsman who was as passionate about education as baseball.

Ms. DELLA BRITTON-BAEZA (President and CEO, Jackie Robinson Foundation): We are a proud 34-year-old organization that was founded by Rachel Robinson, Jackie Robinson's wife, the year after he died, in 1973.

We are a college scholarship organization that not only provides financial assistance to our scholarship recipients, but we are very much engaged in an extensive mentoring program that includes not only the sort of classic career advice and internship placement, and the imparting of networking skills, if you will, but we also have a practical life skills component to our mentoring program.

So we are essentially providing the kinds of skills and opportunities to these young college students that allow them go on and, as we like to put it, be ambassadors of Jackie Robinson, and to live by those principles that he himself embodied.

CHIDEYA: Give me an example of one of the extraordinary young people who your organization has worked with.

Ms. BRITTON-BAEZA: You know what comes to mind immediately, I just left a meeting with the board committee, the Jackie Robinson Foundation board committee, and one of the members of that committee happens to be a board member who was a Jackie Robinson Foundation alumnus himself. A fellow who is now a managing director at Goldman Sachs who started as a Jackie Robinson scholar and continues to be not only active with us on the board level, but continues to serve as a mentor to our current scholars.

There's a young fellow now who's a senior in our program who will invariably go on to do wonderful things. Marcus Ellison, who is at NYU as a senior and who started his own nonprofit organization. Marcus now with his nonprofit reaches out to young - some homeless, some just so totally without support - and encourages them, these young people, to go on to school.

So I could give you numerous examples of the wonderful things our scholars do. We have 1,200 alumni, and we currently have 266 Jackie Robinson Foundation scholars.

CHIDEYA: Let me ask you just a final question. You have this foundation traced back not just to Jackie Robinson, but also to his wife - you made that very clear - and you've helped 1,100 scholars. That's not cheap. So tell us, first of all, how you're partnering with corporate leaders and Major League Baseball. And secondly, since you'll be appearing at Dodger Stadium this weekend for Jackie Robinson Day, what do you want people to remember about him?

Ms. BRITTON-BAEZA: Well, you know, with Jackie Robinson, you have to understand that he's an American icon for all people. You know, I like to say Jackie took the high road. Given the opportunity, he seized the opportunity and he did it in a way that was unassailable.

And so with our great partnerships with Major League Baseball, for example, and with corporations throughout the country like GE, like a Goldman Sachs, you know, like Coca-Cola. I mean we have a tremendously large arsenal of corporate supporters. And that propels us, you know, the more we can get across to corporate America that we really are helping to add to what's good about America.

We are creating a workforce of people who will, you know, of course, add diversity but just add value. And so that's the perpetuation of what Jackie started. When we celebrate on Sunday in the ballpark, we continue to remind the public of Jackie's legacy and, hopefully, of those values by which he lived.

CHIDEYA: Well, Della, thank you so much for coming on.

Ms. BRITTON-BAEZA: Thank you.

CHIDEYA: Della Britton-Baeza is president and CEO of the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

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