Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Martial Arts Help Students Develop Discipline

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Martial Arts Help Students Develop Discipline

Article excerpt

Byline: Kandace Lankford, Times-Union correspondent

When Tyree McDowell started taking karate classes in September, it helped kick his life into gear.

Through martial arts instruction, the 17-year-old Northside resident has developed self-discipline, gained new skills and learned to look forward to a future filled with possibilities.

McDowell is participating in Careers and Karate, a program Florida Community College at Jacksonville's Downtown Campus offers to at-risk youths. The program, coordinated through Team Up and FCCJ, aims to keep kids in high school through graduation and prepare them for successful completion of post-secondary education, leading to a high wage-high skill career.

Students meet at the Downtown Campus twice a week for life skills lessons, help with homework and study of Tang Soo Do, a Korean form of martial arts. Weekly meetings with a mentor also take place on campus.

Edythe Abdullah, Downtown Campus president, and Don Green, campus executive vice president for instruction and student services, lead the program, which targets students at Andrew Jackson and Raines high schools.

For McDowell, the program has been an attitude-changing experience.

"My mom decided to put me in this program; it wasn't my decision," he said. "At first I didn't like it, then I started to enjoy it."

McDowell, who dreams of one day owning a television studio or being a news director, recently received his gold belt in karate. Through the program, he learned the importance of respect.

"You have to clear your mind of foolish stuff and concentrate; you have to respect people here," he said. "I have learned to be more respectful at home, to my teachers and to others."

According to Green, when the program was initiated, funding was in place to grant a college scholarship to each of the 18 students taking part. But the funding has since fallen through, and the program needs donors.

"We need some businesses out there to step up and offer scholarships to the program so these kids can go to college," Green said.

Several of the students have experienced serious hardships in their lives, but through the program, Green said, they have overcome the obstacles.

"They're more focused and positive human beings, and they have a lot more discipline than they did before," said Green. "They've been exposed to a whole new world here."

It's a world that has imparted new lessons to participant Brittney Gordon.

"We have physical contact with each other, and that makes us have to learn to communicate and to trust each other," she said. "It's helped me to be more patient, and I've also learned how to calm myself and not take things so hard."

Gordon, a 16-year-old sophomore at Andrew Jackson, said she wants to get a degree in psychology and open her own practice one day. …

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