HENRICO COUNTY,Va. -- In one Richmond-area classroom, it’s not reading, writing, and arithmetic; it's karate, taekwondo, and jiu-jitsu.
As students line up to begin a routine of basic kicks at Martial Arts of West End, Assistant Instructor Aleric Harris smiles. He was just like them many years ago. Now he’s a black belt.
Master Instructor Erik Hubley remembers when Aleric walked in at the age of 11.
"If you take one of those super balls, the rubber ones, and went into a racquetball court, and throw it in the corner," Master Hubley said. "Wow! He was bouncing and jumping everywhere."
"I was a very energetic kid," Aleric admitted. "I loved Power Rangers; I loved ninjas and all that stuff; loved to jump around."
He’s still jumping around and flying off walls, but it was different seven years ago.
Aleric’s grades were slipping. He was getting into trouble.
"I didn't know how to disperse the energy," he said. "I didn't know how to put it into a positive aspect. Walking into the building, I didn't even want to start martial arts. My mom put me into it."
"She brought him to Martial Arts West End to see what we could do to support her and help her out," Master Hubley said.
It took a while, but eventually Master Hubley tapped into Aleric’s love of martial arts to turn things around.
Part of his program included asking for a copy of every student’s report card.
"And if your grades aren't up to par," Aleric said, "you're not getting your next belt. You're not ranking up. So it's not just the physical, it's the mental, it's the moral. You want to always strive to be better."
Year by year, the grades went up. The belts around his waist kept changing color.
Now this black belt is about to graduate high school with the grades to get into college. Master Hubley is proud.
"Where his head is at this point, the sky's the limit. What he decides to do and put his mind to, he'll excel at it."
Aleric plans to go to college and study business. He’d like to possibly open up a karate business of his own one day.