AYA Teen Empowerment Program Marks Its Inaugural Year

Heroes Circle programming continues to expand and evolve as we identify needs not fully met for our many children and young adults, as well as their families and support networks. In that vein, we launched the AYA Teen Empowerment Program, powered by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, for children age 12 through their early 20s.

“The goal of the AYA Teen Program is to really offer enhanced psychosocial and life skills to our teens and young adults, and build upon the therapeutic martial arts skills learned from us throughout the years,” explained Cindy Cohen, KKC’s Global Program Director. The program, led by social workers and program specialists, focuses on, “…socialization, community building, reduced isolation, career exploration, life skill development and stress reduction,” she added.

The milestone was celebrated during our annual Belting Ceremony, held this year on Monday, June 13, 2022, under a marquee on the grounds of Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills. More than four dozen Heroes Circle participants gathered in-person for the first time in two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We also lived streamed the event, allowing an additional 39 students to join us virtually!

For many older children, both former cancer survivors, their siblings and others, the lessons developed in the Heroes Circle arsenal of programs have long-term benefits, which was the driver for developing programming uniquely designed for this demographic, Cohen emphasizes.

One veteran, 17-year-old Haley Wallace, who has been a Heroes Circle participant for almost 9 years, explained how Kids Kicking Cancer impacted her when she first received her cancer diagnosis as a child.

“KKC has done a lot for me over the years,” Wallace, a rising senior at Madison High School in Adrian, says.

“It made me feel like I was actually part of a community when no one else wanted to be around me because of cancer since kids think cancer is contagious, and it’s terrible. But it also taught me how to learn and relax, and deal with stress.”

After the ceremony, attendees participated in our signature “Breath Brake,” taking in and exhaling several deep breaths while repeating the mantra power peace purpose, and led by our organization’s founder, Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg. Wallace closed the event with a rendition of Elton John’s 1983 hit, “I’m Still Standing.”

“Every belt is a sign of power, but the kids are not just powerful martial artists,” Rabbi Goldberg explains. “They are breathing in light, pushing out darkness. So that’s peace. And what’s the purpose? Ask any kid here and they’ll tell you: to teach the world.”


Help more children find

Power. Peace. Purpose.

Despite the ongoing challenges of the global pandemic, we are committed to empowering one million children to reduce their pain and stress with the help of our evidence-based martial arts therapy.