More than just a sports program
Over the 11 years of operation, the Gompers Middle School judo program has done far more than improve the physical conditioning of the youth that work out on its mats.
To participate in the program, youth are required to maintain a 2.5 GPA, regular attendance at school and at judo practice and have no school disciplinary issues. The program provides judo uniforms and lessons at no cost. Each year, students have one or more trips out of the area that combine judo with cultural and educational events. Past events have included a road trip to a judo camp in Salt Lake City, with a stop on the way to train at a club in Las Vegas. While in Utah, students hiked in the canyons and attended their first rodeo. During a trip to Washington, D.C. for a judo camp, students also visited the Smithsonian and toured Georgetown University.
The local high school has a 57% graduation rate – in contrast to 100% of Gompers Judo students who graduate high school (students begin in middle school but can continue through high school). When the after school program no longer had funding to provide meals after school and water fountains were turned off to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the teacher-volunteers were funding all of the expenses out of their own pocket. The Strong Mind Strong Body Foundation provided a small grant to cover operating expenses for the program, including insurance, water bottles, water, after school snacks and cleaning supplies.