A Dudley High School senior practices taekwondo with doctoral student Yongsun Lee, as Coach Darlene Mitchell and Dr. Michael Hemphill look on. Lee came to UNCG from South Korea, to study kinesiology and youth sport development.
“During partner drills, students can check if their partner is ready to hold a punch or kick pad before starting, and punch and kick more strongly only with their partner’s permission,” says Lee. “Knowing how to interact with others in positive ways is an essential factor for peace.”
“When kids keep things bottled up, the smallest conflict causes them to explode. This program has given them a space where they feel comfortable opening up.”
The class meets in the last academic period of the day. “During fourth block, it’s hard to keep their attention,” Mitchell says. “I’ve seen a major difference in how students responded during this class. Kids have really taken to it, and they’re engaged and respectful. When I step in to observe, I notice that the students are expressing themselves. I absolutely love it.”
As their UNCG-funded project comes to a close, Rinker, Hemphill, and Dyson are pursuing opportunities to scale their curriculum to other schools.
“I wish every high school kid could take this class,” says Mitchell. “When students don’t understand or know how to handle conflict, it’s difficult when they become adults. Now, when they graduate and go out into the real world, they’ll remember what they learned.”