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Change begins with you

By Anne Radke,
Gadsden County master karate instructor and life skills coach

To get what you want requires change. Change can be difficult. As a teacher in both martial arts and life skills in Gadsden County, I have seen the youth change.

In the classroom, you only have a minute to connect. The look in the eyes of some teenagers is not rebellion but rather fear and discouragement about their future.

Some parents today are so busy or basically not communicating with their teens. The cell phone has become the teens’ lifeline. Their friends are where they get most of the advice in how to deal with life.

ven the most checked-out student, who seems to be thinking about something else or say they can’t wait to leave Gadsden County, will listen to you if they feel you truly care about them. I tell them your problems will follow you regardless of the county you live in if you do not find a way to overcome the obstacles in life.

So, my students are taught life skills, and how to create strategies and have a plan for success in life, despite how they are living now.

It is hard enough to go to school and deal with peer pressure and the demands of schoolwork without motivation.

Publishers, gamers and movie directors are focused on dark and sometimes violent actions as entertainment.

Could the attraction be that our children just want the good guys to win, justice to be served or maybe even have some sort of escape or control?

What they really need is hope and encouragement.

Several times the past couple of years, the Gadsden County schools have been in lockdown from threats of violence. Yesterday, we were in lockdown again because a student had made threats on social media, so of course the school had no choice but to safeguard all students.

Imagine how you would feel as a student if suddenly you cannot leave the room because outside that room terrible things could happen to you?

Teachers and administrators must do what is best for the students, of course. The flip side of lockdowns, though, is now the students are so confused and their concentration is blown.

Education is more than just book learning — it is the transformation of the heart and mind.

Teaching for almost thirty years at the Alpha UPKUDO karate school in Havana, my students learn how to respect others; control their actions; discipline themselves; protect and preserve their lives; gain confidence; and bond with their karate family.

The answer to the gun crisis is not taking guns away, but rather to arm the individuals facing daily crisis with common sense and respect. What we see today is only the evidence of what has been brewing for years. It did not just start. We were just too busy to notice.

The change that needs to be made is not with others, but with ourselves. Ask yourself: Am I a human being worthy of being emulated? Do I turn off my phone and TV long enough to have those life-altering conversations with my children? Do I treat others with respect? Do I spend time with those I love? Will I leave the world a better place than when I came into it?

Even if you have two jobs and can’t be there when your children get home, find time for them. Social media or gang members will be happy to brainwash your child if you don’t.

Sexually-transmitted diseases, pregnancy, smoking, drugs and drinking are tempting children every day.

Our wonderful, precious children deserve to grow up feeling safe and happy. Teachers can help guide them, but it requires more because children need and want their parents. The challenge is great especially for a single parent or family member raising children.

While I may have worked a lot during the week, I definitely made sure when I got home that I spent quality time with my children. I did not expect anyone else to raise my children and teach them morals.

I brought them into this world, so it was my job to teach them how to survive in it.

I am so grateful Gadsden County has a lot of praying, supportive and loving people in it. Therein lies the power of change for the better.

So, what then are we to do? Change. It begins at home and can be time-consuming, but so worth the effort.

Life is made of crooked paths dappled with love and joy. By our example, we can make the journey our children take a little straighter by teaching them respect and giving them the love they crave.

We are all teachers capable of helping children become the joyful, loving people they were intended to be.

You can get what you want. It just takes change —and that change begins with you.

Anne Radke is a sixth-degree master black belt in Upkudo karate and has been awarded seven World Halls of Fame in martial arts. She is the executive director and life coach for the A Better Body nonprofit located in Havana. For almost 30 years, she has taught thousands of students to become successful in life and her students have won more than 4,000 trophies in karate competition. She may be reached at or (850) 566-4544.