After-school programs are a critical part in a child’s development; unfortunately, due to a combination of factors, many children who are classified as at-risk for one reason or another lose access to helpful programs, perhaps because of rising program costs or because programs are disappearing in areas that need them the most.
Jeff Tognetti saw a need for after-school programs in Central Nyack, NY., that assisted both at-risk youth and combated childhood obesity (at risk, in this case, meaning children affected by any number of factors including poverty, bullying, abuse, ect.). To kill two birds with one stone, he helped revitalize the Renzo Gracie Rockland academy and martial arts center.
Renzo Gracie Rockland (officially called the Renzo Gracie Rockland Jiu-Jitsu Academy) is an official Renzo Gracie affiliate academy. Operated by Renzo Gracie purple belt Omar Jimenez, the center offers a large variety of martial arts classes that promote better fitness, self-defense and respect, and even prepares some students for competitions. Rockland’s courses cover kick-boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, grappling and other fighting styles.
Out of all of the center’s classes and styles, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is the most popular. According to the academy’s website, BJJ is a “Martial Art and Self Defense system that focuses on grappling and ground fighting. It promotes the principle that a smaller or weaker person can successfully defend them self against a bigger, stronger assailant by using leverage and proper technique—most notably by applying joint-locks and choke-holds to restrain an opponent.”
While it offers self-defense and martial arts classes, the center promotes itself as a place for participants to find a supportive environment and a calm center, something that people of all ages, especially growing children and teenagers, need in their lives. The center also strives to empower all of its students; its Facebook page, which features multiple pictures of hugging groups of people and hard-working children, is a great place to see how successful the center has been in reaching those goals.
Jeff Tognetti actually played a major part in revitalizing this important program in 2012, when it needed a little extra help moving forward and reaching out to the local youth; like many locals, Tognetti wanted to support a program that would help any youth, be they at-risk, obese, or just looking for an active outlet in their lives. Since its revitalization in 2012, the program has done very well as it continues to offer classes for local youth that promote a team spirit, as well as extremely popular martial arts styles.