Winners for the 2010 Breaking Barriers Essay Contest were announced by Major League Baseball and Scholastic on Thursday, and Stephanie Mauro of Sacramento, Calif., claimed the grand prize.
The contest recognized students for their efforts to overcome personal barriers using values exemplified by Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson and is a major component of "Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life."
Mauro will join Sharon Robinson, Jackie's daughter, who serves as educational programming consultant for MLB -- at July's All-Star Game in Anaheim. In addition, Mauro, the four first-prize winners and the four second-prize winners will each receive a laptop computer, a class set of the book "Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America," and a T-shirt from a new line by Jesse Simms, Sharon's son and Jackie's grandson.
The four first-prize winners were Alena Korins (fourth grade; Merrick, N.Y.), Darick Dunham (fifth grade; Calamus, Iowa), Kristen Alcala (eighth grade; Ligonier, Ind.) and April Riley (eighth grade; Madison, Ala.). Rounding out the second-prize winners were Myles Hutcherson (fourth grade; Freehold, N.J.), Madison Lewandowski (fifth grade; Goleta, Calif.), Tyler Degener (eighth grade; Sarasota, Fla.) and Cheryl Groncki (eighth grade; Clayton, N.C.).
"The Breaking Barriers program empowers kids with strategies to face life's challenges," Sharon Robinson said in a statement. "This year's nine national winners were selected from a pool of outstanding personal testimonies. With the difficult judging process behind us, the fun begins as we visit each of the winners in their schools and in Major League ballparks across the country."
The essay contest required students from fourth to eighth grade to submit an essay about obstacles they previously faced or are still facing, and how they used specific values demonstrated by Jackie Robinson -- commitment, citizenship, courage, determination, excellence, justice, persistence, team work and integrity -- to deal with them.
"Jackie Robinson lived a remarkable life on and off the field, and it was his values that helped guide him toward his achievements," MLB Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig said in a statement. "The 'Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life' program is important to Major League Baseball because it celebrates these values and makes a positive impact on thousands of kids across the country who relate to Jackie through their sometimes-difficult experiences. It is rewarding that these young people can identify how to overcome significant personal obstacles just by learning about this great man."
Since its inception in 1997, the Breaking Barriers program has reached more than 19 million children and 2.7 million educators in the continental United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, according to a league-issued news release.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.