Major League Baseball And Scholastic Announce Winners of Essay Contest

Major League Baseball and Scholastic announced that Raeya Ponugoti, a fifth grader from Indianapolis, Indiana, and Peter Hanhan, a ninth grade student from Valrico, Florida, were selected as Grand Prize winners of the 2012 Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life Essay Contest. Both students were selected from thousands of essays submitted for this year’s contest. Hanhan is the inaugural Grand Prize winner of the new high school component to the Breaking Barriers essay contest for ninth grade students.

     The essay contest, which recognizes students for their efforts to overcome personal barriers using the values exemplified by Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, is a significant component of Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life. Using baseball-themed activities, the program is designed to provide students of diverse backgrounds in grades four through nine with strategies to deal with barriers and challenges in their lives, while at the same time conveying the significance of Robinson breaking Baseball’s color barrier in 1947.

     “As we celebrate the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking Baseball’s color barrier, this program continues to be an important component for instilling Jackie’s values in young baseball fans who have to overcome barriers of their own,” said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. “Jackie is an inspiration to generations of Americans, and I am thrilled that his legacy remains so vibrant with our young fans through the Breaking Barriers program. Major League Baseball congratulates both Raeya and Peter for their wonderful essays, and I look forward to meeting them in the near future.”  

      In addition to the two Grand Prize winners, national winners of the contest include four First Prize and four Second Prize winners. Sharon Robinson, Jackie’s daughter and Educational Programming Consultant for Major League Baseball, will visit select winners’ schools to personally congratulate and recognize them.

The full list of national winners is contained below: 

Grand Prize: Raeya Ponugoti, Grade 5, Indianapolis, IN; Peter Hanhan, Grade 9, Valrico, FL


First Prize:    Ethan Rose, Grade 4, Canton, MI; Alexis Williams, Grade 5, Chatham, NJ; Hunter

                         Youngblood, Grade 7, Newburg, MD; Erin Walker, Grade 8, West Bloomfield, MI


Second Prize: Brendan Borowsky, Grade 4, White Plains, NY; McCrae Leith, Grade 5, Albany, OR;

                           Chava Sosis, Grade 6, Providence, RI; Aeliya Arif, Grade 7, Sugar Land, TX


     Raeya and Peter will join Sharon and will be recognized, respectively, at the MLB All-Star Game in Kansas City and the 2012 World Series. The Grand Prize winners, First Prize winners, and their teachers will each receive a laptop computer, as will the Second Prize winners. All winning contestants will be given a set of Breaking Barriers T-shirts for their class and Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America, a picture book biography that examines Jackie Robinson’s hard-won victories in baseball, business, politics, and civil rights, and the inspiring effect he had on his family, community, and country.

     “The essays are the heart of the Breaking Barriers program,” said Sharon Robinson. “They are a testament to the strong character and resilience of our youth and are a positive way to connect Jackie Robinson with kids. This year, our two grand prize winners have both crafted essays that have communicated my father’s values wonderfully. Peter, our ninth grade winner, recounts the courage it required to cope with being forcefully uprooted from his Palestinian home in the West Bank, and Raeya explores the commitment and determination she needed to pursue her love for dance in the face of bullying. I am so pleased with both of these winners and I look forward to visiting their schools and experiencing the All-Star Game and World Series with them.”    

     “Jackie Robinson will always be a powerful inspiration to children who strive to overcome obstacles in their lives,” said Francie Alexander, Chief Academic Officer of Scholastic. “Scholastic is proud to once again join Major League Baseball and Sharon Robinson to celebrate the legacy of Jackie Robinson through the books we publish and this unique program, Breaking Barriers.”

     Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life was developed by Major League Baseball, Sharon Robinson, and Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education, and media company. Since its inception in 1997, Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life has reached more than 22 million children and 2.9 million educators in the continental United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The Breaking Barriers essay contest asks students in grades four through nine to submit an essay about barriers or obstacles they have faced or are still facing in their lives, and how they overcame those obstacles using the values demonstrated by Jackie Robinson: commitment, citizenship, courage, determination, excellence, justice, persistence, teamwork, and integrity.

For additional information on Breaking Barriers, please visit



Contact:   Steve Arocho or Ariel Williams, Major League Baseball, 212-931-7878,

                  Sara Sinek, Scholastic, 212-343-6899