When anyone walks down the Orange Hall and nears room 601 at Lancaster Elsie Robertson Middle School it becomes clear that there is more than just karate and self-defense being taught in Mr. Kim Morgan’s Kick Start Kids program. As soon as the door cracks open students face the front of the classroom and bow as they all say in harmony “Respect.” This is just one of the elements students learn as they work through their Kkarate moves.
“The goal is to teach students character, respect and discipline through karate,” Morgan said. “We can find different ways to correlate the karate and self-defense to learning these concepts.”
Kick Start Kids is a program that was founded by Martial Arts World Champion Chuck Norris in an effort to teach middle school students character through karate. The program has been part of Elsie Robertson Middle School since 2006, and has been under the guidance of Morgan since the second year of existence in Lancaster.
“I love everything we do with our students in this program,” Morgan said. “We teach more than karate we teach these students to be better students.”
Students who participate in Kick Start Kids in middle school have the opportunity to continue past middle school. These students attend after school Black Belt Club and continue to improve on the concepts taught in middle school class. Aaron Tang, now a senior at Lancaster High School, is one of those who still enjoys coming to Morgan’s after school club.
“Being part of this program has helped me tremendously since I was in middle school,” Tang said. “I have learned who I am and how to react better when I am under pressure.”
Other students in the program credit Kick Start Kids for keeping their life on track. Eighth grader Jazmine Aponte said she loves coming to karate class every day.
“Kick Start Kids means the world to me,” Aponte said. “I gained so much self-confidence every time I learn a new move in karate.”
Over the years, Morgan said he has enjoyed seeing not only one child from a family in his program but multiple siblings come up in the program.
“Many times students will bring their siblings after school and they ask about how they can become part of the program,” Morgan said. “We are like one big family here in Kick Start Kids.”
Parents say the program is a difference maker. Karen Sei whose son went through the program in 2010-11 said she will forever be grateful to Mr. Morgan for the impact he made on her son in the Kick Start Program.
“He learned so much discipline and respect by participating in Kick Start Kids,” Sei said. “I can honestly say he has never been in trouble to this day and he is now 24. I attribute this to the Lancaster Kick Start Kids Program.”
Morgan agrees with Sei and says students in his class want to do good in school and stay out of trouble so they can continue to be in Kick Start Kids class.
“While some may think that because we are teaching self-defense methods these students want to fight all the time, that is not the case at all with Kick Start Kids,” Morgan said. “These kids become some of the best kids in school since they want to continue participating in the program.”
Morgan said he loves coming to class every day. He said one of the greatest things is to see students who may never be part of any other extracurricular activity or sport come to his class and almost instantly feel like they fit in Kick Start Kids.
“When I see kids eyes get wide and they say WOW that just makes my day,” Morgan said. “When a student goes from saying absolutely nothing in class to giving the greatest speech at their belt ceremony, I feel like we have accomplished something great.”