Bland County students may get the opportunity to take advantage of afterschool lessons in self defense and self discipline later this year.
The owners of the Shanaki Karate School in Wytheville sought the support of school board members in launching a Bland County branch of its Kids Kikkin It After School program during the board’s Aug. 13 meeting.
“We’ve been in discussion about this for years,” owner Scot Shannon told the board. “We thought it would be nice to be able to offer something like that to Bland County.”
Longtime Bland residents, Scot and his wife, Shawna, have operated the after school program in Wythe County for about a decade.
“We do get a lot of folks in this area asking us to bring something like that here,” Shawna said.
The couple hopes to use the former Head Start building located behind Bland County Elementary School. The building could easily be transformed to suit the needs of the program and the proximity to the elementary school is ideal, Scot noted, since the after school program serves children ages five to 12.
The after school program will begin at 3 p.m. with pickup at 6 p.m. During that time, children will work on their homework, receive a snack and work on their martial arts lessons. The program will also offer snow day and early dismissal programs, as well as summer programs.
“This is not a day care by any means, shape or form,” Scot said. “It’s a highly-structured reward and consequence- based martial arts program. We really try to instill values in our youth including academic performance.”
In order for participants to advance their belt ranking, they must maintain and A/B average in school, he said.
Shawna, a special education teacher at Spiller Elementary School in Wytheville, said the program has a positive impact on students.
“For the last 10 years I’ve been at Spiller, I’ve watched the special education kids, I’ve just watched the difference and impact it has on their lives as well as general ed, too.”
She noted that the program offers the chance for instructors to talk to kids to see what issues they may be facing and to offer character lessons.
The program also encourages children to become involved in their community. To advance in the program, students are required to put in community service hours. Participants often volunteer their time during food drives and delivery.
“We really believe that we can make a difference in the community,” Scot said on Friday. “Part of that is giving back to the community. We look at it like we are responsible for taking care of the community we live in.”
The Wytheville school has produced state and national champions, as well as some Olympic qualifiers. While a few MMA fighters have passed through the doors, Scot noted that the full-contact combat sport is not the instructors encourage.
When people think of martial arts, he said, “A lot of people automatically think of punching and kicking and violence and all that. But it’s the exact opposite.”
Nonviolent conflict resolution is the first line of defense, he said. “And, for absolute worst case scenario, we try to provide those kids with the skill sets and knowledge to try to defend themselves against an attack—not just with a school bully, but with worse stuff out there.”
Shawna hopes the program will draw interest from Bland County teachers, as it would offer the opportunity for extra income for teachers interested in helping with the educational portion of the program.
In addition to self discipline and defense, the program also offers children something to be involved in, the couple said.
“That’s one of the bigger complaints we hear is that there’s nothing for the kids to do, so I think it’s a good idea,” said board member Bill Crabtree.
The other members and Superintendent Scott Meade seemed pleased at the prospect of the program. Meade recommended the couple set up meetings with elementary school Principal Laura Radford and with the Bland County Homeroom Parents group before a decision is made about building rentals.
A presentation was planned for yesterday afternoon (Aug. 20).
Should the old Head Start building not pan out, the couple plans to move forward with the program at a different location.
Jasmine Dent Franks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.