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Military kid gets props for his Tae Kwon Do kicks

By Pamela Jackson | | August 29, 2008

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It is a normal Saturday morning routine for most kids, a bowl of their favorite cereal and cartoons.

However, most kids don’t grow up wanting to be like their favorite cartoon character.

According to the website, www.ninjaturtles.com, in 2009, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will turn 25, marking a quarter century of evolving “Turtle Power.”

The Turtles were first introduced to the public as a comic book series created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman in May 1984.

From there they went on to become iconic figures for kids, tweens and teens of the eighties, nineties and today.

This bodacious foursome (Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael) have grown into pop culture icons.

Military families are known for their impermanent lifestyle.

It can take its toll on families, especially those with young children. 

However, this is not the case with 11-year-old JaWaun Zaire Stanley, the overachieving son of Gunnery Sgt. Kevin Stanley. 

Inspired by his favorite cartoons, the Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers, he decided one day that he wanted to be like them.

Stanley, after recieving his orders to Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, moved his family here June 18 to begin his three-year tour of duty here as Supply Chief, Detachment 2, Supply Company, 4th Supply Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group.

He said, “JaWaun has been practicing Tae Kwon Do for six years.  He became interested while we were stationed in Iwakuni, Japan, following my tour of duty as a recruiter.”

“JaWaun had all of this energy and wanted to do everything, so instead of assuming what he liked to do, my wife and I gave him a chance to do everything (sports) and he loved it.  His first sport was bowling, then basketball, T-ball, football, baseball and flag football.  At the end of every sport cycle, we asked him what he wanted to try next.  He wasn’t afraid to try anything new and excelled at everything,” Stanley said.

“One day we went to the gym and he saw a sign that read:  Tae Kwon Do class, sign up here.  He asked what it was and I told him it was like the Ninja Turtles, since he had been watching them his whole life.  After watching a class for a few minutes, he said, ‘I want to do that’,” Stanley continued.

His mom said he’s doing everything else so let him try it.  JaWaun picked up on it really fast and his first instructor was ‘blown away’ with his desire to learn.  We thought maybe it was a fluke and that there was no way he could be that good at everything he touches, including school,” explained Stanley.

JaWaun is also a straight-A student and impressively polite. 

He was determined to make his father proud by earning his black belt before he returned from Iraq. 

As a military child, every time his family moved, he had to start earning his belts all over again. 

This is just one of the many sacrifices that military families have to make.

Candita Stanley, JaWaun’s mother, said, “I am so proud of him.  We are blessed because there are so many other things he could be doing, but he chose to do this,” she said.  “It’s a positive thing to see what you want, and go for it, at such a young age.  He is also a great student and once he sets his mind to it, he excels at everything he does because he always gives 100 percent.”    

Laughing out loud she said, “He’s a little perfectionist.”

It is that gift, talent and determination that earned him a second spot on the Cartoon Network feature, “Props,” and a chance to meet the Lopez Family, 2008 Tae Kwon Do Olympic Team and coach. 

JaWaun’s spot can be seen at www.cartoonnetwork.com/promos/props/index.htm by clicking on JaWaun Tae Kwon Do. 

JaWaun is a 6th grade student at Lee County Middle School and a certified black belt.

He won a silver medal in the 2006 Junior Olympics and was ranked #2 in the nation for his division. In 2007, he won the bronze medal in the 2007 Junior Olympics, ranking him #3 in the nation.

“I am so happy because it took me six years to get my black belt because I had to keep starting over.  Now that I have my certification as a black belt, I’m keeping it and no one can take it and make me start over again,” JaWaun said.

When asked what his friends thought about his appearance on the Cartoon Network, he laughed and said, “It was amazing.”

JaWaun wants to help other kids learn Tae Kwon Do, just like he helped the Marines at Camp LeJeune, N.C., his father’s last duty station.

JaWaun said, “I helped the Marines with their form and sparring. They would push me around because I was little, but I always ‘got them back.’”

“My goals are to go to the Olympics in 2012 or 2016 and place gold in Tae Kwon Do,” he said. “I also want to be an instructor, then a grand master someday. I’m also a good student and feel that is very important. My parents told me that if I didn’t keep good grades, they would take me out of Tae Kwon Do. So I always had A’s. School first, Tae Kwon Do second, but God comes first before everything and anything,” he said.


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