Boardman taekwondo instructor donates class fees to elementary school

By Jordyn Grzelewski


“I have one more word for you guys,” Master Justin Taylor told the crowd of more than 100 kids assembled in Stadium Drive Elementary’s gymnasium.

“Respect: Treat others the way you want to be treated,” he said.

That lesson Friday capped off an after-school tae kwon do program led by Taylor, who came to the school four times over the last two weeks. He also left the group with a parting gift: $2,300 that he raised through the $20 fee each student paid to participate in his class.

Stadium Drive will use the funds to build a gaga pit – an enclosed area used to play a dodgeball-like game – in the playground.

The donation is a practice that Taylor, owner of Junior Tae Kwon Do School in Boardman, said he began years ago. He offers tae kwon do programs, so far in Boardman and Canfield schools, and always gives back the money he collects.

“Schools need it. And I think it encourages people

to participate,” he said. “I think that it’s good when someone signs up for the class that they’re supporting their school along with becoming more educated in the martial arts.”

Taylor also comes to the schools before the tae kwon do classes to teach kindergarten to secnd-grade students about being aware of strangers, and third- to eighth-grade students about preventing bullying.

During Friday’s session, Taylor deftly led the kids through the exercises, many of which incorporated commands in Korean. The students enthusiastically joined in – kicking, jumping and shouting back responses to Taylor on command.

When Taylor quizzed the group about self-control, the kids roared back, “I am in control of my own behavior.”

They also learned about perseverance, with Taylor explaining to them that it means to “never give up.”

Some volunteers got to break wooden boards. Fourth-grade student Sophia Martin came to the front of the room, swiftly breaking through a plank with one kick.

Physical education teacher Kendal Daltorio and Principal Michael Zoccali also took turns breaking boards. The crowd broke into deafening cheers when Zoccali chopped through three at once.

Taylor ended by presenting a $2,300 check to the school. Zoccali said they hope to build the gaga pit sometime in the spring.

“The biggest positive is that every kid can do it,” said Daltorio of the gaga game. “When you’re teaching different units in the gym, some might be stronger [than others]. ... Every kid gets so involved with this game that they really put their best effort into it.”

“I think they’re all good at it, because they like it so much,” she said.

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