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Project Sparrow helps kids build self-esteem

by Merrie Leininger

Helping children feel better about themselves through martial arts is the purpose of Project Sparrow.

Jill Kuckhoff and George Fujii of West Coast Martial Arts and Tumbling at 1418-A Industrial Way, created a scholarship program to allow one child from each Carson Valley school to participate in martial arts classes for one year. School officials nominate the students for the scholarship.

Kuckhoff created the program last year following the suicide of Eric Marchant, a student at Carson Valley Middle School who felt overwhelmed by bullies at school.

Kuckhoff said studying martial arts gives students discipline, responsibility, integrity and perseverance.

n Green belt. Carson Valley Middle School 7th grader Trevor Clark, 13, has been in the program since January and already achieved the skills needed for a green belt.

Trevor’s father Toby said being in Tae Kwon Do has given Trevor more focus and organization.

“He seems to be more focused. Before, he was just bouncing around. Now, his thought process is more organized and he knows what he has to do,” Clark said. “His sense of self-esteem has come up a little because he knows he can do something they can’t. And, they don’t push in him in the hall like they used to. He walks with a little more self-confidence.”

Trevor is in special education classes in school, and taking Tae Kwon Do has helped him improve his performance in school, he said.

“It’s not just all about protecting yourself, but it is also about helping you get better grades and stuff like that. When I started, I had all Ds and one C and now I have all Cs and a few Bs. It really helped me a lot in school,” Trevor said. “While I’m there, they tell you to focus your eyes, focus your mind, focus your body.”

Clark said Trevor now is able to take the class three times a week in lieu of physical education at school, giving him more time for remediation classes.

Interacting with other students has also been a positive experience for Trevor, Clark said.

“He interacts well with the older group in Tae Kwon Do and helps with younger kids. He relates to them well,” Clark said.

He said he knows the benefits of Tae Kwon Do because he received training in the martial art when he was in the military.

“I think it is a great program. It motivates him and gets him excited about things. The competition is good for him. In grappling, he competes with older kids and I think he does better than most of them, but that’s just his dad talking,” Clark said.

n Scholarships. Last year, the center raised about $1,800 for the scholarship program through a silent auction, and they are planning another silent auction to raise money for 11 scholarships this year. Fujii said the center provided three full-time scholarships and about five partial scholarships last year.

A class for a year costs about $700, he said, so in order to provide the 11 full scholarships, the center will almost definitely have to provide some of the funding out-of-pocket.

Last year, businesses from around the Valley donated 70 items from hot air balloon rides to dinners, art, rounds of golf, collectibles and much more.

The silent auction will be held at West Coast between Nov. 29 and Dec. 3. For more information or to donate a prize, call 782-8343.