Foundation's alumni find success
College scholarships and leadership training help pave way
NEW YORK -- Della Britton Baeza, president and chief executive officer of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, was visited recently by Craig Pacheco, one of the foundation's alumni scholars to whom the doors of the One Hudson Square headquarters are always open. Pacheco brought with him good news, that he was recently hired by AT&T, but that was not all.
"He handed me a check for $150," Baeza said. "What was strange about it was that the check was dated Sept. 15 of this year. I said, 'Craig, that's five months from now.' He told me, 'That's the day I start my job, and I wanted my first check to go to the Jackie Robinson Foundation as a start of paying back all it has done for me.' I can't tell you how much I was moved by that."
Rachel Robinson created the foundation 35 years ago to continue the pioneering work of her late husband by providing college scholarships and leadership training to minority students. The fruits of those labors can be seen daily by alumni such as Pacheco and hundreds more who have been able to enter fields largely barred to African-Americans in the years before Jackie Robinson emerged as an advocate for social change.
Another recent visitor to the Foundation's offices, Christine Ingram, stopped by to let staffers know she has several interviews scheduled in Washington, D.C., for what she hopes will lead to a career in politics. She spent two and a half years in the African nations of Rwanda and Kenya for the Clinton Foundation. Ingram co-authored, with Dr. Cyprien Bariwira, a renowned pediatrician, a national pediatric HIV scale-up plan in Rwanda, which was accepted as policy by the Ministry of Health.
"The goal was to attain universal access to HIV treatment for Rwandan children by 2011," said Ingram, a Chicago native and Wellesley graduate. "Right now, Rwanda has the potential to achieve universal access. The national prevalence rate was between 3 and 4 percent and Kenya 5.1 percent. Those figures are both down from what they were five years ago."
This is pretty heady stuff for someone who just turned 24. Ingram was a French major with an economics minor who studied in Paris and was also on the university swim team. Her travels have taken her to Spain, Portugal, England, Switzerland and Italy, as well as Africa.
"I want to commit my life to public service," Ingram said. "That is the result of values that were instilled in me by my parents, by the Jackie Robinson Foundation, and Wellesley College, my alma mater, to go forth and use any talent you have to help the greater good. I am ready to delve into politics in the United States. I am interested in learning the legislative process. I think I would like to run for office some day. I don't think it would be any less than 20 years from now. I will be applying for law school in the fall."
Her sense of unlimited horizons comes from the encouragement of a foundation based on the principles expressed by Jackie Robinson, who despite having last played in the Majors more than 50 years ago was nevertheless a name familiar to Ingram since her girlhood.
"I have been hearing about him since I was a child," Ingram said, "but it really wasn't until high school and when I was getting ready for the application process and the interview that I actually started to do a lot more reading and research on him. I read his autobiography, and one thing that really stuck with me more so than his contributions to baseball were his contributions to the civil rights movement and to his family and the role that he played in the lives of Rachel and their children."
Christine Ingram will be following a path already blazed by such prominent Jackie Robinson Foundation alumni as:
Jeff Moss, a San Antonio native, graduated from Morehouse College and the Business Careers Academy. He is a rising star at Citi, where he is the financial center manager at the Starrett City branch in Brooklyn. Moss excelled not only in the classroom but also off-campus as mentor to four at-risk young men in Atlanta, a student employee with the United States Department of Homeland Security, and a tutor at several local middle and high schools.
Soon after arriving at Citi, Moss began voluntarily teaching financial education classes to individuals from low- to moderate-income communities. He also participated in numerous community outreach, clean-up and revitalization efforts sponsored by Citi. In his role as a management associate, Moss also helped facilitate more than a dozen team building events and activities to various staffs and groups within Citi. He hopes one day to manage his own management consulting firm.
Jade Simmons -- a native of Charleston, S.C., and graduate of Northwestern University and of Rice University's prestigious Shepherd School of Music -- is a nationally renowned classical pianist. In 2000, she was Miss Illinois and first runner-up in the Miss America Pageant, where she performed Chopin's Etude in C-sharp minor, Op.10 No.4 live and before a television audience of millions. Simmons is the first New Music, New Places Fellow for the esteemed Concert Artists Guild organization, for which she helps build new audiences and generate interest in concert music by bringing traditional and new works to non-traditional and alternative venues.
She created "Mozart on the Move," a presentation for elementary school students, and conducted outreach programs for the Van Cliburn Foundation and the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival. Simmons started a program to bring music to inner-city areas based on a study that showed kids who study music tend to do better in school, have more discipline and better time management. She designs her own concert wear and is a budding fashion entrepreneur.
Jonathan Gibbs, a Seattle resident and Virginia native, graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Aerospace Engineering program. While at M.I.T., Gibbs chaired the Black Student Union's Political Action Committee when minority programs came under attack. As a high school student, he developed the first Heads Up Guidance System for Microsoft Flight Simulator. The popularity of the program caught the eyes of engineers at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, which now use it as an engineering tool and recruited Gibbs to join Boeing's staff.
At Boeing since August 2006, Gibbs designs wings for airplane systems and devotes time to the REACH group, an organization that helps new hires adjust to the corporate culture. He serves on the Board of the Family Works Seattle Foundation, a food bank and family resource center.
Kimberly Brown, a native of Montclair, N.J., is a graduate of Yale, where she was a two-year member of the varsity golf team. She coordinated creative writing workshops for fifth-grade students at Worthington Hooker Elementary School in New Haven, Conn., and was involved in "Visions of Virtue," a mentoring program for at-risk teenage girls. Brown became a Fellow in Leadership in Service with the United States Golf Association Foundation and managed $1.2 million in grant activity in seven western states. Brown also coordinated a number of outreach efforts, including a junior golf program for students of the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind. She is assistant director of The First Tee of Greater Seattle, a nonprofit concern that provides learning facilities and educational programs promoting character development and life-enhancing values through golf to more than 1,000 children annually.
Heather Cannady, a New York University and Harvard Law School graduate, was the first recipient of "Extra Innings" funding for graduate scholars. She traveled extensively through Africa studying constitutional law and filed a brief petitioning the Supreme Court to hear a case on behalf of the 1921 Tulsa race riots. Cannady toured the U.S. with decorated Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree working on civil rights issues and recently earned a position in the prestigious law firm of Cravath, Swaine and Moore.
Marcus Ellison, once homeless in Maine moving from shelter to shelter after his father lost his job, went to NYU and started what is now a multi-million-dollar real estate development interest. He also initiated an acclaimed non-profit organization providing college preparatory training to inner-city youths and launched a jazz media company.
Elaine Weddington Steward, a native New Yorker and graduate of St. John's University, became the first black woman executive of a professional baseball organization when she was named assistant general manager of the Red Sox in January 1990. Steward, who as a teenager used to be a babysitter for Mets second baseman Felix Millan's family, is now Boston's vice president and club counsel.
Jack O'Connell is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.