Bessy Banegas from our Houston Badges for Baseball program is just one example of how our program changes lives for the better. She received this year’s Ripken Foundation Scholar Award, which assists students pursuing their higher education and career dreams. Bessy’s story is a common one in our program. Both of her parents emigrated as teenagers from Honduras and faced many obstacles and setbacks due to language barriers. The day-to-day struggles forced her parents to work long hours and leave their children in the care of neighbors. As Bessy grew up, so did the temptations around her. She surrounded herself with people who participated in illegal activities. Under those negative influences, she made some poor choices during her middle school years and ended up doing drugs and being arrested in her freshman year of high school. After this major setback, through social media, she learned about the Badges for Baseball program and in a very short time found a true sense of family and community. She started volunteering in the program and found herself becoming a mentor and coach to the other kids. From setting up the fields to leading instructional drills, Bessy was able to really connect with other kids in a positive way, and it inspired her to want to be a leader in her community. In addition to her participation as a peer mentor in the Badges for Baseball program, Bessy became the captain of the high school varsity volleyball team, co-captain of the basketball team, and president of the Craft Club. This fall Bessy is attending Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas, to pursue a degree in Business Administration, with a minor in Communications, while also being a part of the school’s volleyball team.