To close out the 2013 Citi Field Kids season, the Mets hosted a motivational and educational program prior to yesterday’s 11-3 blowout out of the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. LaTroy Hawkins and Robert Carson among many other speakers were on hand to share words of wisdom with over 200 YMCA of Greater New York teens that participate in various YMCA programs throughout the year.
The event began with a short video documenting the nine values and ideals of Jackie Robinson – courage, integrity, determination, persistence, citizenship, justice, commitment, teamwork and excellence. Following the conclusion of the video, Michelle Yu of SNY–acting as the master of ceremonies–told her own story of overcoming obstacles to become the first female Asian-American sports reporter in the New York area prior to introducing a series of guest speakers.
Karissa Royster, a San Antonio native, spoke to the young audience about her story of her dream to attend NYU, and with the help of the Jackie Robinson Foundation scholarship, was able to make that dream a reality.
“I was nervous because I am not necessarily used to speaking in front of people,” said Royster while watching the game following the YMCA event. “But it was a wonderful opportunity to share Jackie’s legacy with young people and to further encourage them to put in the hard work it takes to achieve the dream they may have.”
Following Royster, a number of other Jackie Robinson Foundation scholarship recipients addressed the teens, one of them being Choumika Simonis, who was able to attend Cornell University thanks to the foundation’s efforts. Simonis says the scholarship only encouraged her to work harder in school.
“The Jackie Robinson Foundation scholarship had a tremendous impact on my collegiate career,” said Simonis. “It motivated me to be better than my best. The mentors we had motivated me to take it to the next level, better myself and to strive for excellence.”
Next came the 2013 Mets Kidcaster contest winner Johnny Gadamowitz, exemplified his perseverance when after multiple unsuccessful entries in the contest, finally got the call he was waiting for, getting the chance broadcast half of an August 9th inning at Citi Field against Colorado. When he came up to speak, Michelle Yu asked if he would one day take her job, to which he shrugged and smiled. Gadamowitz said he enjoyed having the opportunity to speak to the teens, most of which were all older than him.
“I had a lot of fun doing it,” said Gadamowitz. “I hope everyone who listened was inspired. It was a great experience.”
The program wrapped up with the arrival of Hawkins and Carson teaching about the importance of financial responsibility. Hawkins did the majority of the talking, saying that throughout his entire career he has invested in his 401K significantly, and consistently tells the younger players like Carson to follow suit.
At the conclusion of the program, Hawkins and Carson surprised one of the teens with the opportunity to hand the lineup cards to the umpires at batting practice and meet Terry Collins, Ryne Sandberg and several Mets players. Those in attendance received gift bags and tickets to the Mets vs. Phillies game.
Citi Field Kids, now in its fifth season, is a community-based initiative for New York City middle and high school students developed by Citi in collaboration with the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the Mets and various community-based organizations. Citi Field Kids was launched on April 15, 2009, in conjunction with Major League Baseball’s annual Jackie Robinson Day.