LOS ANGELES (KABC) —
Many veterans say they learned discipline, leadership and confidence while in the military.
And it’s those skills one local vet is teaching young kids through his nonprofit foundation.
Carl McCrary is teaching his young students about facing down bullies.
“The way you stand, the way you look, your facial expression, all of those things, they will sort of make the bully think twice,” he said.
McCrary wants young kids to know how they can face difficult situations using the lessons he learned while in the military. Things like life skills, confidence and respect.
He’s the CEO and Founder of the nonprofit Heroes Rescue Mission which runs the Young Heroes Leadership Academy.
McCrary was in the Navy for 6 years, serving on the USS Constellation. When he came home, he graduated from a police academy, but found he really had a passion and purpose for helping young people.
His first efforts dealt with troubled teens, but now his foundation provides services for youth 17 to 5 years old within the LA Unified School District.
He says parents and teachers were constantly asking him to reach out to younger kids, to help them develop good habits before problems start.
So now, the Young Heroes Leadership program teaches kids as young as those in the first and second grades.
The academy offers a wide range of programs involving physical drills that use a bootcamp approach, mentoring, self-defense, food and nutrition counseling, plus fun things like “word of the week” and hip-hop dancing.
They also have community-based events and diversity programs where they learn about different cultures.
One young girl said, “The most important thing I like about Young Heroes is when we do self-defense. I like that the best.”
McCrary offers a look at what this year’s programs will hold.
“We’ll be learning about what the first responders do and the work that the police do,” he said. “I was in the military police in the Navy as well as an aircraft firefighter, so that is kind of close to heart to me. I also want them to understand how police officers work and have respect for them.”
The military structured program was exactly what attracted parent and fellow veteran Gev Parsamyan.
Parsamyan was in the Army, and was looking for something to teach his kids about leadership and structure; things he says he got from being in the military.
“My older daughter was in the program and in a couple of weeks, she became the class president – which amazed me because she’s always the quiet and shy type,” he said.
“One of the biggest things that I’ve noticed about Carl and the program is how the kids react to it,” Parsamyan explained. “Kids want to excel around him. They want to be better. They come around him and say ‘Carl, I got an A!'”
Parsamyan has two daughters in the program and he’s noticed a big difference in both.
They’ve become more self- confident, one ran for class president and both are getting better grades.
In fact, Parsamyan’s such a fan of the program and the work McCrary is doing that he’s now a volunteer, teaching the kids self-defense classes. He also hopes to spread the word about the non-profit foundation so that they can receive enough donations to keep growing and have more kids participate.
For McCrary, it’s fulfilling knowing he’s teaching these young minds the benefits he learned from serving. He hopes to instill in them the self-esteem to take on a leadership role later on in life and to develop good habits now.
And it’s clearly paying off.
Elizabeth Parasmyan’s a graduate of the Leadership Academy.
She said, “I became more confident, standing up against bullies and I got better grades.”
McCrary said, “That’s one of the main things I focus on in the program, just building the child’s self-defense, self-respect and basically teaching them about bullying and how to protect themselves. But not only to protect themselves. I want to show them how to respect other people as well.”
He said with so many kids being bullied he wants them to know they can stand up to others and feel confident.
“I try to teach that courage is not just ‘not being afraid'”, McCrary explained.
“Courage is saying ‘I am afraid, but I’m going to go anyway.'”
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