Regina Im wants to bring some fighting spirit back to struggling Flushing High School.
Im, who graduated from the school in 1998, has received a grant that will help her whip up a small group of students into a competitive taekwondo team.
“If we can inspire one student, we can make a change,” said Im, a third-degree black belt and founder of Korea Taekwondo. “I never could have imagined one day I would return to Flushing High School.”
Im worked with Don Capalbi from the Queensboro Hill Neighborhood Association to obtain the $1,000 grant from the Citizens Committee for New York City.
“We feel strongly about supporting the students of this school,” said Capalbi. “Korea Taekwondo has been very successful in the schools where it does exist. It teaches kids a lot of the things they need to be successful in their studies.”
As part of its annual citywide grant campaign, the committee will hand out over $100,000 to 54 groups in Queens.
The grants help fund a myriad of projects, from Im’s taekwondo team to library reading programs, public art and gardening.
“The idea has been to engage New Yorkers with each other with the goal of improving their neighborhoods,” said Peter Kostmayer, chief executive officer of the Citizens Committee for New York City.
Capalbi and Im said they also hope the program will boost the morale of students at the school, which was threatened with closure in recent years because of poor academic performance.
Taekwondo practice provides kids with vital physical skills, but even more importantly teaches them discipline and focus, said Im, who graducated from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College.
Kostmayer said almost 700 groups across the city applied for the grants and 292 received them. The number of applicants was up 84% over the previous year.
That jump may be in part because smaller groups are losing traditional sources of funding.
“The [city] Department of Education is strapped,” Kostmayer said. “Member items are gone from the state Senate and the state Assembly.”
Im plans to start the program with student volunteers in the fall. It will be part of the afterschool program at Flushing High School.
“We want to build up self esteem and pride,” said Im. “Even students who are not in the program can support the team.”