Kickstart Kids

Brazos Valley’s Still Creek Boys & Girls Ranch
January 30, 2013
Annual Home & Garden Expo
January 30, 2013

Kickstart Kids Into A Healthy Life

by Sarah Kinzbach

The after-school hallways of Davila Middle School are filled with noises typical of a crowd of 11- to 14-year-olds. Friends shouting to each other, kids running to waiting busses and mischievous giggles echo in every part of the school. In the gym, basketballs are dribbled and shot in practice while kids yell to one another and wait for rides home. Clearly, silence among preteens is vastly overrated. Everywhere, that is, except a mat-floored room filled with trophies, Bruce Lee posters, and 35-40 barefoot kids dressed in karate robes, patiently – and silently – awaiting instructions.

These kids are part of Kickstart Kids, a martial arts training program founded by Chuck Norris in 1992. In 20 years, more than 70,000 children have graduated through the program offered at select Texas middle schools as an alternative to PE. In addition to Davila, Kickstart is offered at two other Brazos Valley schools: Jane Long Middle School in Bryan and Navasota Junior High School.

Kickstart Kids Into A Healthy Life

by Sarah Kinzbach

The after-school hallways of Davila Middle School are filled with noises typical of a crowd of 11- to 14-year-olds. Friends shouting to each other, kids running to waiting busses and mischievous giggles echo in every part of the school. In the gym, basketballs are dribbled and shot in practice while kids yell to one another and wait for rides home. Clearly, silence among preteens is vastly overrated. Everywhere, that is, except a mat-floored room filled with trophies, Bruce Lee posters, and 35-40 barefoot kids dressed in karate robes, patiently – and silently – awaiting instructions.

These kids are part of Kickstart Kids, a martial arts training program founded by Chuck Norris in 1992. In 20 years, more than 70,000 children have graduated through the program offered at select Texas middle schools as an alternative to PE. In addition to Davila, Kickstart is offered at two other Brazos Valley schools: Jane Long Middle School in Bryan and Navasota Junior High School.

The program was created to teach kids the core philosophy of martial arts and stress the importance of building a healthy mind and body through respect, courage, strength, effort and self- discipline. The Kickstart instructor at Davila, Rommel Gargoles, can attest to the effectiveness of those philosophies. In the three-year lifespan of the program at Davila, teachers, parents and students have all commented on the difference this program has made to them, their kids, and their lives.

Gargoles, affectionately referred to as “Mr. G,” says the program provides kids with not only a physical outlet but also a mental one. Gargoles holds his kids accountable for their homework, attendance, and behavior.

“They don’t want to disappoint Mr. Gargoles,” says Joslyn Pierce, assistant principal at Davila. Teacher Dinah Bolton concurs: “The kids have become more aware of how they present themselves and are more responsible for their grades and homework.”

Parent Nikki Brady has noticed a significant difference in her son Parker’s self-confidence since joining Kickstart Kids as an 8th grade student at Davila. Parker is now a sophomore at Rudder High School but continues to participate in Kickstart after school. Brady says, “It’s been a huge confidence booster. Some of the kids now look up to him.” It’s not difficult to figure out why he’s a role model; in addition to having good grades, Parker now holds multiple amateur world titles.

According to the Kickstart Kids website, students involved with Kickstart have maintained higher GPA’s, are more diligent in school attendance, exhibit self-discipline and resiliency to harmful influences such as drugs and gangs, and are more confident and positive in their ability to achieve their goals. The kids at Davila have definitely succeeded in achieving their goals. This year, Gargoles took three students to the Super Grands World championships in Buffalo, New York. They came home with multiple amateur world titles.

Clay Ruffino says his son, Louis, lacked a passion for anything he tried before Kickstart, but since the first day, he has been totally immersed in the program. “He’s doing it because he wants it,” says Ruffino. In his first year with Kickstart, Louis is now internationally ranked in multiple events and competed in the World Championships.

Although Davila has become a success in competition, Gargoles says teaching life skills, respect and providing his kids with someone they can trust are more important. Trust is key. A few years ago, Gargoles had a student who had been repeatedly abused by multiple male family members. She wrote a testimonial to Gargoles stating that Kickstart Kids is the reason she is still alive. “I think ‘What if I wasn’t here?’ These kids can turn to me when they can’t turn to their family,” says Gargoles.

The organization is entirely non- profit, so families have minimal expense with dues at $25 per year for a uniform and use of equipment. “We have a lot of kids that wouldn’t be able to do karate if they had to pay for it, and we have a lot of at-risk kids in the program,” says Gargoles.

Last year, 10 kids from Davila performed in Korea. A performance in China and a tournament in Italy are on the agenda for this year. Sponsorships and donations are always welcomed to help with travel expenses to tournaments and competitions. “We have some kids that have honestly never been to college station and that’s the next town over,” says Gargoles. “You take kids somewhere and this is something they are going to remember for the rest of their lives. We definitely want to make a difference and expand not just our martial arts program but provide life experiences.”

To find out more information about Kickstart Kids, visit www.kickstartkids.org. Direct sponsorship or donation inquiries for Kickstart Kids at Davila Middle School to Rommel Gargoles at (979) 209-7150 ext. 5185 or email davilakickstart@yahoo.com.