Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

At-Risk Youth Chop through Stereotypes in Karate Program; Discipline Paired with Life Lessons Help the Students Gain Confidence

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

At-Risk Youth Chop through Stereotypes in Karate Program; Discipline Paired with Life Lessons Help the Students Gain Confidence

Article excerpt

Byline: ADAM AASEN

Xavier Jones said he comes from a high-crime part of Arlington where he used to hang out with a tough crowd.

Just two months ago, the 19-year-old was playing basketball at Justina Road Elementary when he was shot in the neck in an armed robbery.

Growing up surrounded by crime, he said, "The way I was going, I didn't think I'd make it to college."

Now Jones is attending Florida Community College at Jacksonville on scholarship. And the reason he's there is because of karate.

Jones trains every week at FCCJ's Careers and Karate program, which helps at-risk youth find jobs and earn college scholarships through homework sessions, working with mentors and martial arts.

The program enters its eighth year this fall and was founded by Donald Green, FCCJ's executive vice president of instruction and student services, and Edythe Abdullah, president of FCCJ's downtown campus.

It all started when Green, a fifth-degree black belt who has been studying martial arts for 40 years, offered a karate class for FCCJ employees. Green and Abdullah, a green belt, discussed how karate's life lessons could help at-risk students.

"Karate is a great tool to help in personal development," Abdullah said. "It teaches you so many things: patience, discipline, anger management, responsibility, self-control."

The participants come from all types of backgrounds. Some come from happy homes, but others "come in with a tough-life story," Green said.

Most come from poor neighborhoods and challenged high schools like Jackson, Raines, Ribault, Ed White and Terry Parker.

Some are rebellious and use vulgar language. Some have had their relatives injured or killed at the hands of criminals. Some come from abusive households.

One former student was even raped and impregnated by her father. Green and Adbullah helped find her a new home, and Green said he's happy to report she's now attending college out of state.

Green and Abdullah select students based on grades and their backgrounds, those who can be helped the most through the program. Some are as young as middle school and others are in college. The program is free for participants and many in the program are eligible for partial or full scholarships to attend FCCJ.

Green and Abdullah receive no money for their time. They spend hours writing grants and meeting with donors to find money for uniforms, summer job salaries and karate tournament fees.

For his hard work, Green was honored by USA Weekend in May as one of the country's Most Caring Coaches.

It's not all about the karate. Students get much more time with tutors and mentors to help keep them on track every week.

Green and Abdullah receive texts at all hours from the students who share what's going on in their lives. …

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