(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2013)
The story of the baseball legend Jackie Robinson has been told for decades, but on Thursday, instead of looking at the past, speakers at the Dever-McCormack School wanted to get eighth-grade students looking toward their futures.
Close to 150 students from Dorchester public school packed its auditorium to listen to David Robinson, the son of Jackie Robinson, and other speakers talk about the legacy of America’s first professional black baseball player.
The speaker series was part of a yearly tour by the Red Sox baseball club, to celebrate the life of the player and instill his struggle and his triumph in young Boston students.
Born in 1919, Jackie Robinson was drafted in 1947 to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, earning him the title of the first black player in Major League Baseball. Breaking both the color barrier and a number of MLB records, Robinson went on to be one of the best players in the game and an inspiration to both black and white athletes and citizens across the country.
David Robinson was joined Thursday by Red Sox Hall of Famer Tommy Harper, award-winning poet Dick Flavin, and Dr. Stephen Schlein, a longtime chronicler of Robinson’s life.
“[My grandmother] wanted a future for her children and she knew education was the way to do that,” the 60-year-old Robinson told students Thursday.
The youngest of three, Robinson, who currently resides in Tanzania on a coffee co-op, said not only is intelligence important for the students’ futures, but understanding the world around them and building off of their history.
"The issues are not breaking down a barrier and it is done, it's more like cutting the grass or cutting back the thorns," said Robinson. "They keep growing back unless the next generation keeps cutting it back and opening up opportunities."
He touched on everything from the societal impacts of his father's time in the game to what his father's legacy means in 2013.
“The world is your arena,” said Robinson. “It’s a global society so welcome to the world young ladies and young men.”
Faculty at the school also hoped Robinson’s speech would be a jumping off point for the students who will soon leave the eighth-grade and head to high school.
“I think when you hear the message from a number of different personalities it really sinks in for the students,” said Efrain Toledano, vice principal of the McCormack. “We try to instill the importance of working hard because you will always face obstacles that you will have to overcome.”
Students in attendance also seemed excited to take part in the presentation, even if cupcakes with the number 42, Jackie Robinson’s number, were handed out at the end.
“It was cool because I learned more things about Jackie Robinson,” said Karel O’Garron, 14, an eighth-grade student. “I think the idea of perseverance is what really stuck with me.”
Hard work was the theme Thursday after three students were recognized for their essays in the Red Sox Essay Challenge.
Zaria Crawford, Cydney Ochogwu, and Juan Veras were named the winners of the contest earning them tickets to the Red Sox’s Jackie Robinson Day in April.
“It was really awesome to meet all the legends and learn what Jackie Robinson stood for,” said Cydney Ochogwu, 14, who won the contest and is an aspiring lawyer. “In my essay I tried to talk about how what he stood for connected to me and the good I can do.”
(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2013)