with, teach, mentor our students, and to help build a vast network on which all of our constituents can draw. JRF offers many year-round opportunities for alumni to engage and reconnect. From job opportunities with the Foundation and its sponsors to serving on our 100-person strong, national Scholar Advisory Committees and JRF’s board of directors, JRF embraces those who have an in-depth knowledge of our mission based on their direct relationship from which they have personally benefitted. It speaks volumes when our alumni insist on coming back and getting involved with our current JRF Scholars. We’re humbled and thrilled each time a JRF alumnus reaches back and shares his/her time, resources, and strategies to help propel the Foundation. In fact, our current board chairman, Gregg Gonsalves, is a JRF alumnus himself. We must promote the importance of collectively tackling some of our nation’s biggest challenges. Government cannot do it alone. Nonprofits cannot do it alone. The corporate sector cannot do it alone. The most vital organizations recognize that, while an organization can have exceptional results, its reach can be greatly extended with like-minded partners who share the vision and goals. By increasing the depth of our secondary team, we can reach extraordinary heights. The Scholars JRF’s holistic focus on the needs of our Scholars also creates a model that ensures success. By remaining flexible and in constant touch with our constituents over a period of
years, we not only provide assistance better tailored to the needs of the students, but we are better able to identify the services and formulae that work best, allowing us to improve our model to benefit future constituents and to inform others working in our space. Our Scholars are masters at maximizing their time and, even at an early age, have shown great leadership and a commitment to others in need. Year after year, we meet incredible young people who manage school, extra-curricular activities, family life, and community involvement, excelling in each and expunging the perception that young people of disadvantaged communities do not add value. JRF Scholars serve as remarkable ambassadors of Jackie’s legacy, insisting on finding ways to impact local and global communities, associating proudly with the Robinson Family legacy of service. And many may not think about JRF’s impact from the standpoint of our corporate partners; we offer a pipeline of talented, well-prepared, diverse professionals who, upon graduating, add great value to the global workforce. We are committed also to adjusting our program model to meet the needs of contemporary college students. We seek to stay on top of technological advances and trends that affect our constituents. These measures have proven to be important elements of our consistent, very high graduation rate and the success our alumni realize. JRF’s two-pronged model that includes financial aid in tandem with comprehensive
program support increases both the graduation rate and the likelihood of realizing our student constituents’ full potential and, thus, helps to close the achievement gap for minority students in higher education. Our data proves conclusively that academic performance and success in life improve with strong mentorship and social support. Beyond our four-year college program, we offer longer-term support for select students through our Extra Innings Fellowship that provides graduate school assistance. Our Jackie Robinson Foundation Alumni Association works to provide additional mentoring and support after graduation and is a viable network well into the future. JRF faces demands to address other aspects of our namesake’s legacy, which may generate attention and even revenue, but which could compromise our focus on our core services. We work to maintain the discipline to resist pressure to expand beyond our adopted mission and goals, even where we stand to drive additional revenue, knowing that ultimately meeting our own programmatic goals ensures sustainability. Our experience in higher education has instructed us that there are no easy or quick solutions to addressing the disparities in education and that an ongoing, holistic approach brings the best, measureable results.
Della Britton Baeza has been President and CEO of the Jackie Robinson Foundation (www.jackierobinson.org) since 2004. During Della’s tenure, JRF has more than doubled the number of young people served, added graduate school fellowships and a work/study abroad component, upgraded technological capabilities, relocated its headquarters, opened a west coast office, and is preparing to build the Jackie Robinson Museum.
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