Students get a kick out of successful martial arts program

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PAWTUCKET — With a strong focus on building self-esteem through self-defense, the instructors at Mastery Martial Art are helping to create a “Yes, I can!” attitude in Catholic schools.

In their second year at St. Cecilia School, Pawtucket, the Mastery Martial Arts Program has received an overwhelmingly positive response from students and parents, said Principal Jeffrey E. Megna.

“I have personally witnessed students who, after completing the initial program, were much better equipped to avoid unnecessary conflicts,” he said. “I have found students to be more respectful of themselves and others.”

The program not only teaches a student self-defense, but also empowers children to be confident and self-disciplined. The program provides strategies for students to improve themselves physically, emotionally and spiritually, said Megna.

Kerrie Robbins’ son Matthew is a third grader at St. Cecilia. In his first year of the program, his mother is already seeing progress at home.

“He loves it, he absolutely adores it,” she said. “He’s done martial arts at the Y and wanted to continue. He definitely wants to continue to do the program.”

The martial arts instructors are committed to teaching physical skills while applying attitude-shaping exercises aimed at bringing out the best character and physical potential in each student. Chief instructors have been phenomenal with the students at St. Cecilia, said Megna.

Instructor Raymond Berlinsky has trained in martial arts since he was 12.

“I started briefly when I was 5 and came back when I was 12, when I was too cool to do it. My mother encouraged me to continue. I think it’s good for parents to force their kids to do things that are good for them.”

Now, 22, Berlinsky has spent the past decade working hard to reinforce positive behavior and helping students achieve success through martial arts.

“I wouldn’t trade any of the last 10 years with Mastery Martial Arts,” he said. “It’s been very life changing and affects the types of decisions I make on a daily basis. I love just being able to work with a variety of kids and sharing what I know will benefit them.”

Bonnie Britland, whose granddaughter Cassidy-Lynn is in her second year in the program, shared that the students are incredibly focused during their lessons.

“They all focus on him,” she said. “He’s excellent with the kids. He pays attention to all of them and the kids love him. I’ve seen a real big improvement in listening and discipline. She loves the program and looks forward to it every week.”

The program is a team effort, said Gina Santoro, director of marketing for Mastery.

“We try to involve the schools and the parents,” she said. “Today with a lot of the bullying issues and the lack of confidence in the children, it’s the school’s benefit to bring the program to them.”

Mastery has had a positive influence on students for more than 20 years and has been active in many other Catholic schools in the diocese, including Blessed Sacrament, Mercymount Country Day School, Immaculate Conception, St. Pius, St. Thomas, St. Teresa, St. Rocco and St. Raphael Academy.

Mastery’s no charge program allows the schools to use the program as a fundraiser.

“We consider ourselves another kind of fundraiser,” said Santoro. “We say charge $15 per child and we give 100 percent of the money to the school so they can use that for whatever they need. For us, we would rather St. Cecilia have the money because it ultimately benefits the students