KEEPING CHILDREN SAFE IN THE RIVER VALLEY

Story by Jeannie Stone

“Good job. That’s what I like to see,” John Terry says to students in the martial arts class he teaches. Terry has long championed the importance of creating safe environments for children. Through the River Valley Martial Arts center he co-owns with Kyle Bennett, he incorporates danger awareness into his martial arts classes.

John L. Terry III grew up in Russellville, graduated from Russellville High School and Arkansas Tech University with a degree in Business Administration. He is married to Yury and, together, they have six children.

One of the dangerous situations Terry addresses with the students is the common scenario of being home alone, and, historically, during the summer months children are left home alone for longer periods of times.

“We teach home alone safety tips such as how to answer the phone.” Terry says. He also covers Internet safety training because so many of the kids are unsupervised when they are on the computer.

“We have such a fractured society now with kids having no manners, and parents who are not parenting,” he says. “We’ve got to make our children aware of the dangers out there. When I was a child, I would hop on my bike and ride to Atkins or Dardanelle. As long as I was home by dark, the world was an open door, and my mother was waiting for me. Nowadays, we would never allow our children to do that, but we deserve to feel safe in our own communities.”

A biblical theme is introduced each month, Terry adds. “This month it is humility. We strive to build Christian martial artists, and if they memorize and recite the featured bible verse, excel in their studies or perform volunteer work they can earn stars which can be worn on their uniforms.”

At the center Terry and Bennett focus on fitness, self defense and traditional martial arts, and they place a large emphasis on building character.

“By teaching kids to make morally right choices, to defend themselves only as a last resort and to show compassion toward others, we can change our world one child at a time,” he says.

Those are the reasons John Birmingham encouraged his 10-year-old son Cole to join.

“I like Mr. Terry’s approach of mixing in Christian teachings with the martial arts. Morals and discipline go hand in hand with developing life skills. The kids learn respect for others and themselves. Here, it’s yes, sir and no, sir, and those practices will serve the kids well in all social situations.”

An added benefit of these teachings is the close-knit feeling the students share with one another. “Yeah, they encourage one another in school and are proud of each other’s accomplishments here,” Terry said. “We want these kids to excel. Good enough is the enemy of the best you can be. We stress first time obedience, and that’s new to some parents.”

Single parent Cynthia Dow enrolled her son Raven, 7, last month. Dow is impressed with the commitment Terry and Bennett show to all children including those with special needs who don‘t have a lot of outlets. “These guys mentor the kids and really care about their welfare. Our society is seriously lacking in providing strong role models for our children.”

Teaching danger awareness to the kids was a natural reflection of Terry’s life‘s passion. He includes teachings from the Bully Buster program, a National PTA sanctioned program, which teaches effective solutions for dealing with bullying into the class format as well as the “Character for Kids” character development points which boosts self-confidence and self-esteem. Terry is certified to teach both of those programs.

Terry discovered the National Security Alliance Kid-Safe Network/Women-Safe Network headquartered in Detroit, Mich., and became affiliated with the program in 2001. The NSA is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and is currently the largest “danger awareness” certification program in the world.

The NSA created and maintains the Rapid Search Network which is a predator- proof Internet-based security system allowing law enforcement and emergency services personnel access to stored digital profiles of members. Master-certified in both the Kid-Safe and Women-Safe programs, Terry is a frequent speaker in the local and national community on a variety of safety and danger awareness topics. He also solicits enrollment in the Rapid Search Network.

Terry owns IMGA Financial Group, a regional insurance and investment firm. He is a certified chaplain with the Christian Black Belt Association and a volunteer chaplain with the Cross and Shield Ministries and will be inducted in the United State Martial Arts Hall of Fame in August 2008 for his work as a Kid-Safe and Women-Safe Advocate and Instructor.

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