Lincoln teen honored with governor’s volunteerism award

Jacob Collazo, 17, of Lincoln, has clocked more than 120 hours of volunteer time between teaching classes at Tang Soo Do Academy in Milford and self-defense workshops, leading to him being honored with the Governor’s Youth Volunteer Service Award. Above, he works with Alexis Vathes from the academy’s 7- to 12-year-old program. (Submitted photos/Jackie Clarkson)

LINCOLN — Jacob Collazo isn’t just teaching martial arts.

He’s teaching positive attitude, work habits, situational awareness and life skills to children.

The 17-year-old Lincoln resident, a red belt on his way to earning his black belt, has been taking martial arts classes at Delaware Tang Soo Do Academy in Milford for about six years now.

He’s spent the last six months of that time teaching a group of 7- to 12-year-olds at the academy on a volunteer basis under the supervision of Master Lee Clarkson, the chief instructor/owner of Tang Soo Do Academy.

“We teach the kids positive attitude, positive work habits and situational awareness,” Jacob explained. “Don’t go to the wrong places with the wrong people, don’t do stupid things at stupid times, basically things like that. I’ve definitely noticed a difference in the kids through the past few months.

Jacob has also assisted with self-defense workshops offered to teens and adults.

“We do self-defense clinics, and the ability to reach the community with information that will keep everyone safer and keep the community together as a whole. That is really keeping me going. It’s really refreshing and it’s a very good thing for a person to know,” said Jacob.

Master Clarkson first approached Jacob about potentially assisting with instruction after he started showing up to his classes early. He had some free time, so he put that to good use.

“I was there very, very early, so he gave me the opportunity to start teaching some of the kids,” said Jacob.

Several months later, Jacob has clocked more than 120 hours of volunteer time between Tang Soo Do classes and self-defense workshops, leading to him being honored with the Governor’s Youth Volunteer Service Award during a May 14 ceremony at the Polytech Adult Education Conference Center in Woodside.

Jacob, currently a red belt, is just a few tests away from earning his black belt.

“It was a super cool experience,” he said. “It definitely took me back when I found out I won. It was a total surprise. My parents were ecstatic; they were definitely really happy that I won the award.

“I was able to speak with the governor, shake his hand, and then I got the award,” he continued. “It was a really cool, once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’ve never experienced something like that before.”

Before he started taking martial arts classes with Master Clarkson, Jacob says he struggled with some anger issues that have since subsided.

“I’ve definitely noticed a difference in myself,” he said. “It very much helps you mentally. I used to have anger issues – very bad – and then I started taking the classes and it just kind of went away.”

Jacob, currently a red belt, is just a few tests away from earning his black belt.

“Right now, I’m at a red belt with two blue stripes,” he explained. “The two blue stripes signify that I tested two times towards my black belt. I have two more tests to go, one in four months and one six months after that so then I’ll be testing for black belt and I’ll be finished.”

He credited much of what he’s learned over the years to Master Clarkson.

“If he wasn’t there, if he wasn’t the instructor, I wouldn’t be the same person that I am today,” Jacob said.

“He’s pushed me on a level that no other person really has. He has me staying focused, he’s helped me in several ways. It’s a very special relationship between master and student that’s hard to describe, but it’s a very cool experience to be there with him and I’m very grateful for him as a mentor.”

Jacob plans to continue volunteering as an instructor and would even like to start his own classes one day.

“I plan to do this as long as I can,” he explained. “When I get older, I’d like to eventually open up my own classes and teach people what I’ve been learning.”

Upon completion of high school, Jacob says he would like to join the Army National Guard and do about two years of that before joining the police academy.

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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