By Rodrigo Rabanal
As a waiter working double-shifts at Oceana Mondays through Thursdays, Pedro Goncalves had been looking for a place to volunteer on his Fridays off. When Chef Bill Telepan joined Oceana, Pedro learned about Wellness in the Schools and looked no further.
“I was looking for a way to donate my time specifically to young people in need,” stated Pedro. “When I learned about WITS, I thought it was the perfect match.”
Pedro was raised in a military family and had been exposed to martial arts from a very young age. From Karate, Judo, and Taekwondo, he was doing it all. It wasn’t until the 1980s however, when he moved to NYC that he met his sisu (teacher) Danny Cuevas, who introduced him to Kung Fu. He has since dedicated his mind, body, and spirit to learning from Cuevas and his Grand-Master Leung Shum at Ying Jow Pai. He has spent more than 30 years perfecting the art.
Now, a master of Eagle Claw Kung Fu, a style of Chinese martial arts known for its gripping techniques and pressure point strikes, Pedro is using his skills to teach kids and their families at our Family Fitness Fun Nights. “Kids sometimes don’t get an outlet to express themselves, and learn something that’s not only fun but also healthy. I thought teaching them Kung Fu would address all of that.”
Pedro looked up to his grandmother his entire life. From her, he learned that “without work, there is nothing. Sometimes, life is not just about the work you do for yourself but the work you do to help others.” Pedro has truly embraced this motto by working on his days off to help empower kids and families at our schools. He says he learns just as much from kids as they would from him, on lessons ranging from patience to self-empowerment.
Although Wellness in the Schools is in its 13th year, Pedro believes the organization is just getting started when it comes to the potential impact on children all over the country. “The kids that started with WITS will impact more lives as they get older. Every generation needs to pass something good to the next. I think WITS is helping our youth today plant a healthy seed by educating them on how to cultivate it and nurture it, and by helping them grow it into a beautiful garden of health and wellness.
“You need a big heart, and a giving heart, to be working for an organization like WITS. I’m glad I can volunteer and be a part of this amazing movement. I’m just one of the gardeners.”
A master gardener at that.