John G. Daniel stood on a small stage Friday in the gym at Polk Elementary School and shared life lessons with students who had been learning basic karate moves from him.
“Courage is doing the right thing, even when you’re afraid,” said Daniel, a seventh-degree black belt who serves as karate commissioner at the Louisiana Governor’s Games.
Daniel asked whether anyone had ever been confronted by a bully. A small forest of tiny hands emerged from more than 100 burgundy-and-blue-clad students.
“Should I fight the bully?” Daniel asked.
“No!” answered students from kindergarten to fifth grade.
“Should I tell the teacher?”
“Yes!” the students replied.
“Should I tell Mom, too?”
“Yes!” the students said.
Minutes earlier, Cpl. Darryl Honore of the Baton Rouge Police Department’s Division of Community Services led the same children in three choruses of: “I will get my education.”
Each chorus was louder and more distinct than the previous. And there were smiles on those small faces.
All of the activity was part of the Police Achievement League of East Baton Rouge Parish’s Cause and Effect Success Seminar Series.
“If you catch a child when he or she is young and help them learn that education is very important, hopefully, you won’t have to deal with them in the criminal justice system,” Honore explained later.
“We also tell them it’s important to treat others with respect, as they would want to be treated,” Honore added.
Sheriff Sid Gautreaux told the children: “Parish Prison is full of people who made bad choices, the wrong choices.”
Gautreaux emphasized that one wrong choice — such as using drugs or alcohol — can have a terrible impact on a young person’s life.
“My prayer is that you make the right choices,” Gautreaux added.
Outside the gym, the sheriff added: “We want all of them to hear this because we care about each and every one of them.”
Roger Cador, head baseball coach at Southern University, told students it’s important to listen, because listening leads to learning.
Cador reminded the children that mutual respect is necessary for people on both sides of an issue.
“Respect, particularly for law enforcement,” Cador added. “They’re here to protect all of us.”
Away from the children, Cador noted, “These kids are very receptive. And if you can affect just one of them, you’ve done something good.”
One electoral vote can win a presidential election, Cador noted.
“So, one good kid can make a difference,” the coach added.
When he is asked to speak to children, Cador said, “I don’t ask questions. I just go. This is some powerful stuff, dealing with our kids.”
The children at Polk Elementary followed every movement and every word from Daniel, who is the founder and president of Unity Day Youth and Family Zone.
“He’s been a tremendous help,” said Gautreaux. “And my people have a lot of respect for him.”
“A!” Daniel bellowed as he made a swift karate move. “A!” the kids shouted as they attempted the same move.
They then worked through E, I, O, U.
“What are those?” Daniel demanded.
“Vowels!” exclaimed the children.
“You’ve got to earn to own,” Daniel told those growing minds. They repeated the mantra.
“So, if you wait until the last night before the big test to study, what’s going to happen?” Daniels asked.
“You’ll fail!” the small voices replied.
Daniels asked the children to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each decision they face.
“What are the disadvantages of fighting in school?” Daniel asked.
“You get beat up,” some answered.
“You get in trouble,” others replied.
“Be faithful to the truth,” Daniel advised. “Respect others.”