Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier when he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. As Major League Baseball prepares for the 13th annual celebration of Jackie Robinson Day on the anniversary of that monumental date, the league announced Tuesday that it has increased its financial commitment to the Jackie Robinson Foundation and that the two organizations will expand their partnership beginning this year.
Most significantly, MLB will be funding 30 four-year JRF scholarships -- one for each of the 30 MLB clubs. MLB will enlist JRF Scholars to mentor young people in MLB's youth and community partnership programs, including Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), MLB Urban Youth Academies and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Scholars will tutor youth in these programs, encouraging their young mentees to embrace educational opportunities and joining them in extracurricular activities, such as attending MLB games with the league's support.
In addition, MLB will be contributing $1 million to the foundation's Jackie Robinson Museum project. The 18,500-square-foot museum, located on the corner of Canal and Varick streets in lower Manhattan, is scheduled to open in the spring of 2017. Its mission will be to educate visitors about Jackie Robinson as an athlete, scholar, humanitarian and civil rights advocate and to inspire a new generation toward greater progress in social change and life achievement.
"Jackie Robinson inspired change throughout the national pastime and society," said MLB Commissioner Robert D. Manfred. "Major League Baseball and its clubs have long been proud to support the Jackie Robinson Foundation, recognizing the foundation's important role in perpetuating Jackie's legacy by advancing education. MLB's expanded commitment reflects a shared desire to inspire and broaden opportunities for young people in our communities to truly reflect Jackie's vision for our American society and positively impact future generations."
The foundation, founded in 1973 by Robinson's widow Rachel, has continued Robinson's commitment to equal opportunity by addressing the achievement gap in higher education. The Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship Program provides four years of financial assistance and direct program services annually to 225 highly motivated students attending 100 colleges and universities across the country, and it has developed a mentoring curriculum to reach a broad cohort of college students beyond its core "JRF Scholars." The foundation's unique program offers comprehensive support that includes internship and permanent job placement, curriculum and career guidance, one-on-one mentoring and leadership and practical life skills training. The foundation's hands-on approach has resulted in a consistent nearly 100 percent graduation rate throughout its 43-year history.
"We are extremely grateful to Major League Baseball for its ongoing, very generous support of our mission to address the achievement gap in education," said Della Britton Baeza, president and CEO of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. "This increased support from MLB and Commissioner Manfred for the foundation's scholarship program and to help bring the Jackie Robinson Museum to fruition provides a tremendous boost to our efforts. We are thrilled also about the Commissioner's commitment to expand our programmatic partnership with MLB that involves both job opportunities and community service engagement for JRF Scholars, not to mention the benefits to the greater community of young people."
In addition to housing state-of-the-art exhibits, precious artifacts, film and other media, the foundation hopes the museum will also serve as a venue for vibrant dialogue on critical social issues and as a destination for innovative educational programming. It will be a forum for debate and discussion exploring the ways in which society can progress through increased goodwill and humanitarianism.
Historically, Major League Baseball and its clubs have contributed more than $15 million to the Jackie Robinson Foundation for its scholarship program and for the Jackie Robinson Museum. The Dodgers, Mets and Yankees have been particularly generous to the foundation, donating millions of dollars and partnering with JRF around various initiatives. Other Major League organizations that provide funding and engage with the Jackie Robinson Foundation are the Orioles, White Sox, Phillies, Red Sox and Giants. Many current and former MLB players also contribute, including Derek Jeter and his Turn 2 Foundation, which has endowed a scholarship in perpetuity at the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
To date, the national Jackie Robinson Museum Legacy Campaign has raised $21 million of its $24 million construction goal.
Lindsay Berra is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.