South Tahoe Middle School student Rodolfo Rosas lifted his gloves and faced off against his classmate Jesus Moreno at Escobar Training Grounds Monday. Rosas wants to become a professional MMA --or mixed martial arts --fighter, and Monday was part of a workshop that's given him his first glimpse of that goal.
But the six-week program, called Fight for What's Right, that offers free classes to STMS students isn't about training young martial arts fighters.
"We thought we could really help out some of the kids who need mentorship and positive guidance. Everyone seems to really enjoy it and they're getting the grasp of really hard work," Cory Escobar, owner and manager of the South Lake Tahoe training facility, said.
Escobar launched the program five weeks ago after STMS Principal Beth Delacour applied for a $1,920 grant from the El Dorado Community Foundation. Delacour wanted a keep her students off the streets after school, so when Escobar approached her and said he wanted to give back to the community, she saw the perfect partnership.
Delacour listened to teacher input and chose 20 students otherwise unconnected with after-school activities to participate in the workshop. Another group will start a new six-week program in the spring.
"It was 'let's find things that engage them and make them want to come back to school.' As we go through the year we'll evaluate it and see if it's productive for the kids," Delacour said.
Since the program started, the group of middle school students has undergone a big transformation. Most of the children didn't have any previous martial arts experience, so teaching them the basics was a challenge, South Lake Tahoe MMA fighter Corey Carlson said.
By the final week of the program, Carlson said the students really grasped the exercise, the training and what it means to respect others. One student in particular would roll his eyes when he was asked to call Escobar and Carlson "sir." About a month later the same student hurried up unbidden to his mentor at the grocery store with a smile on his face and a warm greeting.
"I know you guys have fun because you keep coming back. And some of you are trying really hard," Carlson said to his class Monday.
Carlson paired up with one of the students during Monday's practice, encouraging him to move quickly and throw punches faster rather than harder. Carlson, who's face appears on multiple posters around town advertising this weekend's upcoming MMA fight, is a good role model for the children.
"I think for the kids to see a tough guy be really humble and respectful, it's good for them," Escobar said.
According to Escobar, martial arts offers a unique opportunity to impart powerful, life lessons on its students. The tradition of combat practices is based on a foundation that combines physical, mental and spiritual development.
"If you're going to make martial arts work, then you need four basic principles --respect, discipline, focus and hard work," Escobar said.
Teen court training to take place in January
The El Dorado County teen court programs in Placerville and South Lake Tahoe will hold a training for new student volunteers and all student attorneys this month. South Lake Tahoe's training will take place on Thursday, Jan. 17 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the El Dorado Superior Court House located at 1354 Johnson Blvd., Dept. 4, South Lake Tahoe. Upon completion of the mandatory training, teens will serve as court personnel for real cases in which a minor has committed an offense.
LTCC CONNECT offers winter children's workshops
Lake Tahoe Community College's CONNECT program is offering several programs for children this season. Children ages 7 to 12 years old can chose from beginner and intermediate piano workshops for $160 or voice training for $180. Children ages 10 t0 12 years old can sign up for a four-week cooking workshop priced at $99. For more information, call 530-541-4660, ext. 717.
Lake schools seek volunteers for annual School House Rocks
Volunteers are needed for Zephyr Cove Elementary and Whittell High schools' biggest fundraiser of the year --the school auction - that will take place Feb. 23 from 6 - 10 p.m. Free babysitting will be available at Kahle Community Center. Call Zephyr Cove School Counselor Jenay Aiksnoras at 775-588-4574 to sign up.
Weekly meetings will be held Fridays at Svadhyaya Yoga Studio behind Safeway in Roundhill starting this week at 4 p.m.
County supervisor announces plans for retirement
El Dorado County Superintendent of Schools Vicki Barber announced plans to retire from her position effective June 30, 2013. Barber was first elected in 1994 and was re-elected to four additional terms. She will conclude 19 years as county superintendent in June. The County Board of Education has requested that Deputy Superintendent Jeremy Meyers serve as the superintendent effective July 1 through 2014.
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