A dozen John Gray High School students have been given scholarships to train in martial arts as part of a new project which organizers believe will have a positive impact on their school careers.

The leaders of the Purple Dragon martial arts school believe martial arts can help young people improve focus, discipline and self-respect.

The school has committed to training 12 students three times a week, with the aim of reaching their black belts within three years.

The impact of the scholarship program, named Project Purple, on their academics and behavior in school will be tracked by an independent educational psychologist.

Shihan Floyd Baptiste, of Purple Dragon, which runs classes for anyone from age 4 to adults, said the school would take 12 new students each year on similar scholarships.

He said the students would be trained in the Don Jitsu Ryu discipline, which blends karate and jiu-jitsu with character training.

“It is not just training physically; it is being able to develop your determination to overcome, to stand for your word, to have a strong sense of justice, to work hard and provide service to others. It is about having confidence that your talent is unlimited as long as you are willing to explore it, to always remember where you come from, be charitable and know that your future depends on your best efforts,” he said.

The Purple Dragon martial arts school has committed to train a dozen John Gray High School students in a three-year program. – Photo: Stephen Clarke

The scholarship students were selected by staff at John Gray and interviewed along with their parents before being admitted to the program.

Mr. Baptiste said the children in the program included some who had been diagnosed with behavioral issues, like attention deficit disorder, but he stressed, “We are not running a boot camp for the bad kids. The most important element is that the kids want to do it and commit to it.”

He hopes the program will provide independent data to support his belief that martial arts develops cognitive as well as physical skills and helps youngsters harness emotions and energy toward a controlled, positive outcome.

Jon Clark, principal of John Gray High School, said the partnership was an important one for the school.

“We are hoping to develop positive mindsets, self-belief, confidence and self-discipline that will improve attachment, engagement and performance within school while making a lifestyle commitment out of school. Purple Dragon have a proven track record of engaging and developing outstanding young people and we hope this opportunity will be of great benefit to those John Gray students involved.”

George Duran and Nathan Garricks square off under the watchful gaze of instructor Shihan Floyd Baptiste. – PHOTOS: STEPHEN CLARKE

Project Purple is looking for private and corporate sponsors. For more information contact Cathy Williams on [email protected]

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