Upon winning the 2012 Scholastic/Major League Baseball “Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life” essay contest, Bloomingdale Senior High School freshman Peter Hanhan, left, is joined by Sharon Robinson, the daughter of baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, and school English teacher Katherine Proly.
Bloomingdale High School ninth-grade student Peter Hanhan likes to do a great many things, but his love of writing, which earned him national recognition last month and an all expense paid trip to this year’s World Series, might just be his niche and ticket to future success.
Hanhan’s love of writing led him to become the winner of the 2012 Scholastic/Major League Baseball “Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life” essay contest, which recognizes courage in the face of adversity and began in 1997, honoring the legacy of Jackie Robinson.
“Peter’s essay was beautiful,” said contest organizer Sharon Robinson, the daughter of the Hall of Famer, who is best known for breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball 65 years ago.
Robinson paid a visit to Hanhan during his English class last month and presented the young writer with an award as the grand prize winner out of more than 6,000 entries from across the country.
The two-page essay that stirred the judge’s emotions dealt with the Hanhan family’s forced removal from their war-torn West Bank home and their subsequent heroic escape three weeks later to the United States in June of 2002.
“I never entered a contest before, but I had a lot to say about what had happened to me in hopes of helping others to see the truth about my background and my family,” Hanhan said. “Once I started writing, it was difficult to stop.”
Hanhan read his literary work in front of his classmates, Sharon Robinson and his English teacher Katherine Proly, who encouraged her students to enter the contest. The essay included passages recalling how an Israeli soldier hit him in the head with the butt of his gun, while his father, Amin, mother, Glorida, and older brother, Imad, had just five minutes to grab what they could before leaving everything else behind.
Hanhan’s escape was only one of many obstacles he had to overcome. His struggle continued as he began attending school and adjusting to a new life while learning a new language, all in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“At first I was afraid of putting my story down on paper, not knowing the reaction of others,” Hanhan said. “We came to Tampa right after a very difficult time for this country, and we were often called names and thought of in a negative light.”
As part of his prize, Hanhan received World Series tickets, a laptop and was recognized at Tropicana Field before the Rays game against the Angels, the first professional sporting event he ever attended.
While happy with the recognition and all the prizes, Hanhan said that the real reward is not something that can be held in one’s hands.
“The real prize is something that you cannot see,” he said. “It is the satisfaction that my story has the power of inspiring others to overcome their obstacles and prejudice, while it encourages everyone to face life with strength, determination and courage.
For more information about the 2012 Scholastic/Major League Baseball “Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life” essay contest, please visit www.jackierobinson.org.