By Chad Garner
Special to the Sentinel & Enterprise
FITCHBURG -- Fitchburg High soon-to-be junior Ethan Chandler has been learning karate since he was 6 years old.
He’s learned so many valuable skills along the way, including determination, dedication, self-restraint, discipline, confidence and being physically active.
“I have learned that you can achieve anything that you set your mind to,” Chandler said.
Chandler is hoping to pass this karate passion along to youth in the area by founding “Karate For Kids” -- a United Way Youth Venture program at FHS.
“I started Karate for Kids to provide kids the karate experience that I had when I was growing up,” said Chandler, a second-degree back belt who trains at Family Martial Arts Center in Fitchburg. “I was always fortunate enough to have parents that could provide me with activities such as karate.”
Chandler officially launched his Youth Venture on Feb. 14, 2017.
“At that time I hoped that it would impact children’s lives, not only when they were at the karate studio, but when they were at school and at home,” Chandler said.
Karate For Kids is already making a positive impact in the community.
Recently, Karate For Kids awarded the program’s first scholarship to Reingold Elementary School student Me’Yah Newton.
The $600 provides six months of karate training at Family Martial Arts Center.
“We selected Me’Yah Newton because the interest she showed in karate is indescribable,” Chandler said. “She is always ready to go when it comes to class time, she is serious about learning karate and always takes her classes seriously. In addition, her mom has fallen on some hardships that may have pulled Me’Yah from karate.”
Chandler says the goal is to award another scholarship in the fall and open it up to surrounding towns.
“To give you a description of the feeling I get from being able to impact other youth is indescribable,” Chandler said. “To give you a back story, I started working with kids when I was 9 years old. I loved it when I first started and ever since then I have always wanted to start some type of program that helps kids take karate.”
Family Martial Arts Center has meant the world to Chandler.
“We have five characters -- modesty, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit,” he said. “The two characters that helped me through a difficult part of my life were perseverance and indomitable spirit. Both of these characters teach you to never give up and to keep fighting. These helped me, because when I was in seventh grade I had a severe bone infection that required four surgeries and over a year of recovery. All throughout this time, all I did was persevere and fight because I knew that I would make it out of it.”
A movie night, prize calendar raffle and 5K walk/run has allowed Karate For Kids to raise more than $3,000.
FHS students and members of Karate For Kids are Chandler, George Love, Brian Sweeney, Kiara Pedraza Justin Comesana and Toua Vang.
The efforts by Chandler and Karate For Kids hasn’t gone unnoticed, either.
At the Youth Venture Spring Showcase, Karate For Kids received the Emerging Leaders Award.
“It meant everything to receive this award walking in to the spring showcase,” Chandler said. “I had never thought that I would win the Emerging Leaders Award. To be honest, I didn’t even know what the Emerging Leaders Award was until that day. Once I knew the definition, I felt that we deserved it with all of our hard work and dedication to the cause.”
The program first started with the idea of giving at-risk youth a karate experience.
Now, Chandler is toying with a little change.
“I have been attempting to change the direction and make it an organization where we help at-risk youth gain any experience that helps grow their character,” he said. “For example, football, basketball, horseback riding for kids with special needs.”
Believe and achieve.