PAL students earn black belts

By Rachel Hill - ReminderNews
Manchester - posted Wed., Mar. 20, 2013
Students in the Manchester Martial Arts Police Activities League participate in a karate demonstration before an awards ceremony. Photos by Rachel Hill.
Students in the Manchester Martial Arts Police Activities League participate in a karate demonstration before an awards ceremony. Photos by Rachel Hill.

It has been proven over and over again that having mentors at an early age can reap huge rewards for a child, and that building bonds can mean so much in the long run. When kids are engaged and involved, they are more likely to make good decisions and less prone to go down the wrong path. When the Manchester Police Activities League (PAL) was formed in 1992 by Capt. Patrick Reeves and Det. Russell Woods, this was the intention and the promise for the future.

PAL’s main idea initially was to connect police with the youth of Manchester, and this aim has only grown since its inception. Youth development is at the core of what PAL stands for, but it doesn’t end there. With activity offerings for homework help, mountain biking, basketball and martial arts, to name a few, PAL is there to foster relationships in the community and to be a role model for responsibility and integrity.

In one recent PAL event, four students of karate were awarded their black belts in a demonstration and ceremony that took place on March 15. Alex Johnson, Dylan Johnson, Rico Scott and Emma Dumont were the recipients of this honor, as sponsored by the Manchester Police Activities League. Also recognized for his continued leadership was Corbin Johnson, a second-degree black belt junior instructor.

The Manchester Martial Arts PAL program, started by Sgt. Bruce Tyler, a Master in Kenpo Karate, teaches discipline, self esteem and commitment. PAL Executive Director Stephen Desautels said, “It’s about making better citizens through character, courage and honor. In martial arts, you fall down, but you get back up again.”  In one instructional exercise, students demonstrated just that - proper form and technique for falling down and standing back up. Students are taught that this can be taken as a metaphor for life as well.

Desautels added, “This is an exciting moment for them and an important step. They earned it. There are expectations, of course. With higher rank comes more responsibility. They will always be students, really, because the real lessons are outside. Mentors open the door, you just have to walk through it.”

The Manchester Martial Arts PAL also teaches a sense of ownership. For example, PAL students of karate worked hard to install floor mats in the instructional space. “This gives them a feeling of pride. This is an example of some of the life skills that demonstrate maturity,” said Desautels. Manchester PAL looks forward to expanding its space in the near future as well, said Desautels.

Parent Angela Johnson commented that she was very proud of sons Alex and Dylan that day as she watched them receive their black belts. “They just love it here,” she said. “They’re taught respect and have gained self-reliance.” Johnson also mentioned the friendships made along the way through the influence of PAL.

In quoting a well-known proverb in the world of martial arts, Desautels spoke of commitment, saying, “A black belt is a white belt that never gave up.”

For more information about the Manchester Police Activities League, visit the website

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