Fitchburg High Junior Giving Back Through ‘Karate for Kids’

September 17, 2018

Ethan Chandler, a junior at Fitchburg High School, talks about the benefits of the Karate for Kids program at the school on Thursday. "Karate has always taught me to use self control and about the indomitable spirit," he said. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / JOHN LOVE Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

FITCHBURG -- A love for karate movies as a kid got Ethan Chandler interested in training in the martial art.

Now as a junior at Fitchburg High School, he is sharing that passion with at-risk youth in the city through the organization he founded, Karate for Kids.

“It gives them a place to go if they don’t have one,” the 16-year-old said. “It’s about helping kids in the community get through challenges they face.”

Chandler launched Karate for Kids in February 2017. The organization serves children between the ages of 6 and 12 and trains them at the Family Martial Arts Center on Airport Road, which is where Chandler started karate when he was 6 and later earned a black belt.

Chandler hopes karate can help children learn life skills and an activity they can look forward to, like it did for him.

“Karate has always taught me to use self control and about the indomitable spirit,” Chandler said.

Money raised from fundraisers have supported a scholarship for Me’Yah Newton, a 9-year-old who attends Reingold Elementary School, to train at FMAC twice a week, Chandler said.

Chandler reached out to the principals from the elementary schools in the city. Reingold Principal Martha Clark found four candidates from the school who each filled out an application and provided a recommendation letter, he said.

Karate for Kids provides a six-month scholarship. The family pays what it can afford and the organization covers the rest, Chandler said, which is usually about $100 a month. If a student is interested in karate after the six-month period ends, the scholarship can be renewed.

Chandler hopes to raise money to start another scholarship. He is hoping to hold four fundraisers by the end of the school year and is thinking of a restaurant fundraiser at Buffalo Wild Wings or Moe’s Southwest Gril, an Easter raffle, and another run/walk 5K.

Chandler formed the organization through the United Way Youth Venture Program at the high school.

The nonprofit partners with schools in North Central Massachusetts and gives students a way to create service programs to help the community,

During freshman year, he went to a showcase about the program at Mount Wachusett Community College and had the idea to start the Karate for Kids.

With help from Monty Tech student Kylie Cormier and about four months of work, Chandler launched the organization.

Principal Jeremy Roche said Chandler is an example of a student who is engaged at school and in the community.

“He is someone deeply committed to helping others experience something for which he has a great passion -- the martial arts,” Roche said. “As a result, his actions are sincere and pure in motivation, which is inspirational to observe.”

The foundation can be seen as volunteer work, but Chandler doesn’t do it just for the hours or to put on his resume.

“It’s more about my love for kids who have needs and an interest in karate,” he said.

Chandler wants to major in special education in college and work with kids, and plans continue developing the organization.

Eventually he would like to expand the program across Worcester County and for Karate for Kids to gain nonprofit status.

In addition to running Karate for Kids, Chandler juggles school work, sports, and a job at Market Basket.

Sometimes when he is working or out, he said people will come up to him say, “You’re the kid who does karate!” Kids will also say hi and call him Mr. Ethan.

“It’s nice that people notice,” Chandler said. “It’s very humbling.”

Follow Mina Corpuz on Twitter @mlcorpuz.

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