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Union students learning all the right moves

October 10, 2012
By Kathleen Palumbo , Town Crier correspondent

Having joined forces with the school's principal, one local martial arts instructor is providing the students of Poland Union Elementary School with a life-changing opportunity colorfully packaged as good, clean fun.

Working in collaboration with Mike Masucci, Poland Union Elementary School principal, the Martial Arts Training Center is providing a week's worth of Taekwondo instruction to Union students under the direction of Tom Ritchie, assisted by Kathy Kraft.

A certified fourth-degree black-belt/master with 17 years of teaching experience, Ritchie's presence, as well as that of Kraft, is being donated by the Martial Arts Training Center.

Article Photos

The first-grade students of Union Elementary School teacher Sue Flasco: Michael Chambers, Dominic Elia, Mariah Goist, Paul Greco, Parker Gromen, Sydney Henderson, Evalyn Hunneyman, Matthew Lilak, Zachary Livosky, Isabella Marrie, Sydney Metzinger, Katelynn Roberts, Vincent Sainato, Aiden Thompson, Lyndsey Thompson, Marek Toma, and Gianna Vagnarelli try their hand at Taekwondo under the instruction of Tom Ritchie and Kathy Kraft of the Martial Arts Training Center.

"One of the things I like to do is these programs at the grade schools," said Ritchie, adding that he spoke with Masucci, who shared his concerns at the school's loss of physical education classes. "It was just a natural thing to do," said Ritchie of the school visits.

Asked what he has enjoyed most about his instruction at Union, Ritchie said his favorite thing has been the behavior of the students in the school, adding that there have been many Union students already participating the classes at the Martial Arts Training Center on whom he has been able to call upon and use in demonstrations for the other students.

In addition, following the weeklong program, Masucci said the students are being offered the opportunity to continue with an additional five-session training program to run from Oct. 9 through Oct. 18 incorporating physical exercise with life skill lessons.

According to information provided by Masucci, the optional course, which is open to all students, is designed not only to introduce them to basic martial arts, but to also teach strategies to improve concentration, listening skills, cooperation and courtesy, with an emphasis on focus, cooperation, and self-control and respect.

While the first four sessions will be held in Poland Union's gymnasium, upon completion of the course, a graduation ceremony at the Martial Arts Training Center will represent the fifth and final session.

Not only are the benefits to the students obvious, but Poland Union Elementary will benefit as well, as the $20 registration fee is being donated back to the school by the Martial Arts Training Center and will be used to enhance the school's curriculum through a variety of programs and or special events.

While Masucci may not be partaking in the training of Taekwondo, Ritchie and Kraft enjoying the opportunity to share the art with their young students, and Union Elementary School and it's students reaping the rewards of the program and generosity of the Martial Arts Training Center, it appears the school's principal has mastered a few critical moves of his own.



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