Daughter of Jackie Robinson visits “Breaking Barriers” essay winner in Surgoinsville


In April of 1947, Jackie Robinson would break the Major League Baseball “color barrier,” changing the landscape of the game and civil rights.

A “Breaking Barriers” educational program across the country teaches students the values Robinson exhibited in life.

A student’s essay on overcoming barriers in her own life resulted in a big award presented by Robinson’s daughter on Thursday at Surgoinsville Middle School.

“If my story can be even one miniscule ounce of hope for someone else,” said Surgoinsville Middle School 8th grader, Eliza Smith, “I want to do that because I know God gave me this experience for a reason.”

It was an emotional day for Smith, as classmates, teachers and family packed the school’s gymnasium for the presentation and to listen to Eliza read her grand prize winning essay. 

Her story described her battle in overcoming anorexia nervosa.

“When the eating disorder took over,” she said, “I kind of lost sight of a lot my faith, and I focused more on food than my body and how I looked to others than how I looked to him.”

Smith learned many lessons along the way, sharing how she broke her barrier with persistence and the help of family, friends and faith.

“Discovering that it doesn’t matter how others see me,” she said, “but how [God] sees me was a turning point in my life.”

Sharon Robinson, the daughter of baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, was on hand to present her prizes.

“It was really incredibly written and moving at the same time,” said Robinson.

The “Breaking Barriers” program has reached more than 35 million children and 5 million educators.

Sharon Robinson is one of the founders. 

“All of us have struggles,” said Robinson. “You have to find a way to move beyond and that’s what we want kids to understand so they will not get stuck, or feel like there’s no way out.”

Smith was presented with a brand new laptop computer for being a grand prize winner.

She will also receive a trip to the 2019 World Series.

For anyone going through their own struggles, Smith shared some advice.

“To always find the light in the dark spots,” she said. “Allow yourself to fail but also allow yourself to rise from that.”

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