Raymond Beasley, 10, was honored Wednesday at Krey Elementary School in Brentwood for his essay he wrote about his Outstanding Life which won the Breaking Barriers Essay Contest and beat out more than 19,000 nationwide submissions.
Beasley wrote about his account of overcoming a barrier of how he was 4 years old when he was diagnosed with a brain surgery that required 14 hours of surgery. A few months later, he then had to begin chemotherapy treatments for a year. Finally at age 6, he had a second surgery that left him with without hearing in his right ear or feeling on the right side of his face.
Beasley read his essay (shown below) in front of 400 kids who were sporting mostly San Francisco Giants hats supplied by the Giants while Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson made the trip to greet Beasley and honor him as the grand prize winner.
She told the crowd why he was chosen because he demonstrated “strong character” and willingness to overcome a barrier.
“What stood out about your essay,” she said, “was your strength of character. We were looking for kids who had challenges in their lives, who showed the courage and strength like you did and my dad did to get to the next level,” said Robinson. “We all know that life is full of slopes and valley’s that we have to overcome.”
She awarded him with a iPad and laptop computer and he also will be attending a San Francisco Giants game as well as the All-Star Game in Minneapolis where he will be honored during the home run derby.
The Breaking Barriers was created in 1997 by Sharon Robinson in conjunction with Major League Baseball and Scholastic, and each year a winner is chosen based on the writer’s eloquence in describing their perseverance in overcoming obstacles or barriers they have faced in their lives. The contest is based on the memory of Jackie Robinson, whose bravery in breaking the sport’s color line will never be forgotten.
Robinson then spoke to the kids for about 25-minutes about “character” and “Breaking Barriers” in life. Some of the students even shared obstacles they personally overcame.
“All of us have obstacles or barriers in our lives,” said Robinson. “We don’t judge based on how hard it is, we really judge on how we work through it. That is what is important.”
She also answered several questions from the students and one student asked about discrimination.
In terms of discrimination, it’s something you have to raise above explained Robinson sharing how was the only African American girl in a school and some kids would ask her if she ever took a bath.
“It’s something that is a part of our lives even today and whether its discrimination because you are another religion, or you speak a different language or you are a different color or a girl or a boy so we have to face discrimination and face them with the same values here that remain determined and not let it stop us,” explained Robinson. “My skin color is part of who I am and I know I have to rise above it knowing that I am strong, willing, capable, smart and do very well despite some people thinking I am not smart. We rise above it and we are all different. So we can’t judge somebody based on skin color.”
Other questions revolved around where she lived, where she was from, her dad’s death and a variety of other questions.
“How does it feel to be the daughter of a famous baseball player?” asked one student.
“He was a great dad and I am very proud of his accomplishments in baseball. I am also very proud of his accomplishments after baseball,” explained Robinson. “I feel great being his daughter. I didn’t always feel that way only because when I was a teenager I didn’t always want to be anyone’s daughter, I wanted to be Sharon.”
Another student asked “how did you overcome life’s obstacles?”
“It had a lot to do with growing up with two very strong parents so I watched them and how they handled tragedies in their lives. My mother believed in us figuring out our own path and if you get yourself into a jam you have to get yourself out of a jam. So it helped me as I grew and kept getting hit with obstacles, every time it happens I remember okay we will get passed this and the other side will be better,” said Robinson. “You have to have a lot of hope and believe things will be okay and when another thing happens you have to deal with that to and that is a part of life.”
Here is the text of Beasley’s essay:
My Outstanding Life
Sometimes I forget about the scar on my head, but the questions about it from strangers remind me that I am a survivor. Sometimes I wish I could just blend in with the crowd instead of standing out. But I AM OUSTANDING because I fought hard to be like most other 10 year-olds. Some people thought that a brain tumor would limit me. However, their minds changed after seeing my own courage, persistent determination, and commitment to succeed. Just as Jackie Robinson fought prejudice so that Blacks could play Major League Baseball, I have applied some of his values in my own life and am very proud to be African American, too.
Growing up, my parents said I was special and different than my friends. I was very smart, but I was behind on talking and walking. My pediatrician could never find anything wrong. But my parents knew something was holding me back. When I started having headaches, stomachaches and dizziness, I got an MRI x-ray of my head at Children’s Hospital Oakland. I thank God that my parents knew how to get help for me because the MRI changed my life.
When I was four, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was the size of a lime, which was big for a child my age. It was near the nerves that help me hear, breathe, and keep my balance. The neurosurgeon told my parents that I would need surgery immediately to remove the tumor and save my life. He also said that afterwards I would need many different therapies to build my strength and that I may not ever have the same abilities as other kids. My parents told me I was going to have surgery and we would live at the hospital for a while. I was too young to understand how my life would change.
My brain surgery lasted 14 hours. They removed most of the tumor but had to leave some behind that was too close to my brainstem. My parents were relieved to hear the tumor was not cancerous. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t breathe on my own, walk, or use the bathroom alone after surgery. The doctors said these were normal side effects but it made me sad and angry. I wasn’t comfortable there and became determined to get better faster. Daily therapy was difficult but I was determined to prove the doctors wrong who thought I couldn’t recover. For three weeks, I worked and played so hard that nurses told my parents they had never seen a child so committed to going home. I went home two weeks early, with wobbly legs but the feeling like I could do anything!
Three months later, we found out the tumor was growing back and I needed to have eighteen months of weekly chemotherapy. I was disappointed but didn’t let this stop my persistence to reach new goals like swimming and playing basketball. Unfortunately, the tumor started growing back again after chemotherapy ended at age six. I was told I had to have surgery again. I cried but my parents talked to me and showed me that fear is a barrier in my faith. I prayed for courage to beat every challenge I would face. The second surgery was successful but I lost hearing my right ear and feeling in the right side of my face, which led to eye surgery. I had to learn how to walk for the third time in my life but I was not discouraged and went home two weeks early again.
In the end, it’s a blessing that I can enjoy life just like other kids. Most people think I’m brave but I am just committed to thinking only good thoughts, even when I feel sad or afraid. Having courage, being persistent, and keeping a commitment to surviving helped me get back up when I was knocked down. Currently, I’m a healthy 5th grade Honor Roll student that likes to play video games, basketball, football, baseball and golf. I’m taking life one day at a time. I also have an outstanding crooked smile and scar on my head that reminds me and everyone else of my strength.