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08/22/08 7:50 PM ET

Robinson Foundation Scholar honored

Velez-Green receives financial, other assistance for college

NEW YORK -- A self-described huge Mets fan, Nicole Velez-Green stood on the field at Shea Stadium on Friday night watching the New York players take batting practice.

But she was there for more than a baseball game.

The Mets recognized Velez-Green prior to Friday's matchup with the Astros as the newest Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholar. She earned the distinction of valedictorian at Peekskill High School and received numerous honors, including the College Board A.P. Scholar Award and the United States Air Force Math and Science Award.

Still, Velez-Green needed to complete an extensive and competitive application process. She spent a month writing six required essays and compiling her standardized test scores and various recommendations.

She also had to overcome a receptive-expressive learning disorder, a processing disorder that made it difficult for her to learn concepts at the same rate as her classmates.

"It allowed me to develop a very strong work ethic," Velez-Green said. "I had to study a lot longer than my peers had to for the most part, but it really paid off. I really learned to appreciate the value of an education because I had to work so much harder for it."

Her time and effort were rewarded. As part of the scholarship, Velez-Green received a $44,000 check on behalf of the Foundation on Friday, and she will receive $10,000 for each of her four collegiate years.

The benefits of the award don't stop with a check. The Foundation -- now in its 35th year -- goes beyond financial assistance, as each recipient is given a mentor, leadership development training and career exploration programs.

Started in 1973 by Rachel Robinson, wife of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, the Foundation's mission is to close the achievement gap for minorities, and the extra measures have created success for the scholars. Recipients boast a 97 percent graduation rate, compared to a national average of 40.5 percent for African-Americans and 47 percent for Hispanics.

Velez-Green is one of 280 scholarship recipients from 34 states this year. She already moved into her dorm room at Binghamton University, where she will attend classes this fall. For Velez-Green, the scholarship alone was a great distinction, but to have Jackie Robinson's name attached to the award made it something more.

"It's incredible, knowing what he's accomplished, what he's done, not only for his generation, but for the generations that have followed," she said. "He really did change American history, and to be receiving a scholarship in his name is awe-inspiring, and I'm deeply honored."

Samantha Newman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.