DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- It took an introduction to Tae Kwon Do through Sidekicks Academy Inc. for Precious Peterkin to find her voice. She is one of many students participating in the program.
"I didn't really like to talk. I talked under my breath," she said.
There is also a lesson in developing confidence and discipline that the students learn while taking part in the Durham-based nonprofit that targets underserved children. The program's founder, Grand Master Freddie McNeil, believed in the program so much that for the past few years, he's been paying for it out of pocket.
"What I want the students to learn is not just kicking and punching," said McNeil. "We have student commitments that they say about I will. I will respect my teachers. I will respect my parents. I am destined for greatness."
For four years, Sidekicks Academy Inc. has worked with two schools within the Durham Public Schools system: R.N. Harris and Burton Magnet Elementary. School leaders called the results they've seen from this program undeniable.
"We have the lowest discipline rate in the district currently," said Burton Magnet Elementary Principal Tiffany Boss. "Zero suspensions. We've also seen trending decrease in discipline data."
During an all-school assembly Thursday afternoon, McNeil was presented by Durham state lawmakers with a $25,000 check to keep moving the mission of the organization forward.
"This says to me that they recognize the program. They endorse it and believe it's effective," he said.
Student Christopher Hall,11, told ABC11 that he was suspended from school before joining. He has changed.
"Ever since that happened last year, I changed because I didn't want to get in trouble again," said Hall.
Thanks to state lawmakers, there's even more money to target crime prevention through Sidekicks Academy Inc. by keeping these kids busy with Tae Kwon Do.
"Sidekicks has been a life-changing experience," said Peterkin.