Shaw Avenue Elementary School students, staff, building and central administrators from district 30 were filled with excitement as Sharon Robinson, author and daughter of legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson, arrived at the school on April 18. In tow with Ms. Robinson were representatives from Scholastic and Major League Baseball, including Mr. Met himself, to honor fifth graders Asma Kaukab and Hafsa Asghar, winners in the Jackie Robinson Breaking Barriers Essay Contest.
Asma was selected as one of only two grand prize winners in the nation for her essay, while Hafsa was selected as one of eight MVP National winners. Hafsa recently moved to Brooklyn but returned to Shaw Avenue for the special day of recognition. The Shaw Avenue PTA provided a delicious breakfast for the school’s honored guest and New York State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, along with both of the students families were present for the celebration.
Fourth, fifth and sixth grade students gathered in the school auditorium where Principal Dr. Alejandro Rivera kicked off the ceremony by thanking the teachers, central administrators and board of education for their support. He also congratulated Asma and Hafsa and encouraged the students in the audience to dream big and strive to break their own barriers.
“No matter what you’re feeling, no matter how hard you think things are, you can always overcome,” he told them.
Dr. Rivera introduced Ms. Robinson who spoke to students about overcoming obstacles and the Breaking Barriers Essay Contest. The contest was inspired by her father who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball and lived by nine values – citizenship, commitment, courage, determination, excellence, integrity, justice, persistence and teamwork. Students throughout the country were encouraged to participate in the contest by writing about their own barriers and how they overcame them using Robinson’s values.
Asma and Hafsa were invited to the podium where they read their winning essays. Both powerful and personal stories, Asma shared her experience with discrimination based on her religion, while Hafsa read her essay about losing her mother. Ms. Robinson embraced both students after their readings and thanked them for bravely sharing their stories. She then acknowledged Asma and Hafsa’s teachers Karin Savino, Kerry O’Connor and Maria Neckonoff for bringing the essay contest into their classroom.
As a result of their winning essays, both students and two of their teachers each received a laptop. The students were awarded with a certificate and received a tote bag from Mr. Met filled with goodies from the New York Mets. The New York Mets also provided ticket vouchers for Shaw Avenue students to attend a Mets game and announced that Asma and Hafsa will be honored at a future game. Asma and Hafsa’s class received t-shirts and books which they later each had personally signed by Ms. Robinson.
As a token of their appreciation, Dr. Rivera and Assistant Principal Christopher Colarossi presented Ms. Robinson with a custom glass trophy and unveiled a special plaque which is now displayed in the school’s lobby to commemorate her visit and Asma and Hafsa’s achievement. To conclude the assembly, Ms. Robinson answered questions and left students with an important lesson.
“We all have to face obstacles in life,” she told students. “We have to dig deep inside ourselves to find the strength to get over them.”
Both students and their teachers will be recognized again by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nicholas Stirling and the board of education at Valley Stream District 30’s board of education meeting on April 29. As a grand prize winner, Asma will be honored again by the Breaking Barriers Essay Contest on the field at the 2019 MLB All-Star Game this July.