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Burrs wants karate belt to envelop Hagerstown community

May 20, 2008|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN -- Jonathan Burrs is one belt away from earning his black belt in karate at Allstar Karate and Kickboxing. What started as a way to spend time with two of his sons has turned into a plan to give back to the community.

Once Burrs, 37, earns his black belt and certification to teach karate, he hopes to begin a program for at-risk children in the community whose parents might not be able to afford karate lessons.

"I wanted to make sure to spend time with my boys," Burrs said. "I got the idea that once I got my black belt and instructor certification, I could address discipline and focus on issues that no one is really attentive to. It's one of my longer-term goals."

He said his sons, ages 13 and 15, also are brown belts and said they're better at karate than he is because "they have youth on their side." They spend five nights a week at the karate studio.

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"It's been a way to keep them motivated and is a positive reinforcement of the things I've been teaching them for years," Burrs said of karate.

He added that his sons are very respectful and have a good work ethic.

Burrs grew up in Baltimore, then moved to Hagerstown in 1988 to attend Highland View Academy, graduating the following year. He joined the U.S. Army and was trained in computer programming.

He returned to Hagerstown and got a job as a computer programmer for the Review & Herald Publishing Co. Burrs has worked in the computer field for 19 years and recently took a job with JLG Industries in McConnellsburg, Pa., as an applications analyst.

Burrs married his wife, Nettie, four years ago. He has four children from a previous marriage and Nettie, a social worker, has adopted six foster children.

Burrs said he wrote letters to different newspapers until his wife suggested he try thinking locally. Once his letters to the editor started getting printed in The Herald-Mail, Burrs was asked to write a column for the newspaper.

About three years ago, Burrs realized it was time to put his words into action and decided to get involved locally. He volunteers with the No Smoking Youth Club of Brothers United, the local NAACP chapter, and has been a speaker for three of the Contemporary School for the Arts & Gallery Inc.'s Black History Month programs.

Burrs also would like to help develop a mentoring program through Brothers United.

"I think it would be very beneficial," Burrs said.

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