VIDEO (2 min.)
Ivy Hall Special Education Aide Kevin Kucbor isn’t the support staff member students and parents might typically expect. As a mentor with the Karate Can-Do program–helping kids with disabilities study karate–he knew he wanted to contribute in the classroom and earned his degree in special education.
For most of his life he has studied Shotokan karate, winning medals in many national tournaments and obtaining his 1st-degree black belt. In July–at the first-ever team trials for para karate athletes–this 22-year-old Chicago native was selected to represent the United States in world competition.
Kevin attributes much of his mental and physical fitness to karate–and that physical capability did not come easily.
Six months after his premature birth, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a condition in which muscles on either one or both sides of the body are weakened. His survival was uncertain, and doctors advised his parents he’d likely need to be fed through a feeding tube throughout his life.
He acknowledges that his capabilities are somewhat of a miracle: “Here I am, eating a normal diet, doing everything everyone else can do. It’s crazy.”
He started practicing karate at age 6: “My parents signed me up for karate as a therapy, in an effort to get me to stay active and make my muscles stronger.”
Kevin’s challenge was daunting: “When I first started karate, I had great difficulty with tasks that involved both fine and gross motor movement. Running was hard, jumping was hard, and maintaining my balance on the balance beam was also difficult.”
He recalls that his physical therapists believed he would never be able to do any of those with a high level of ability, but another important adult in Kevin’s life disagreed: “Coach Kohn, my chief instructor, believed in me, and knew that I could achieve anything as long as I set my mind to it,” Kevin said. “Years later, I am an athlete, teacher, and competitor at the national and international levels.”
An inspiration for Ivy Hall students and colleagues, Kevin–one of three U.S. para karate athletes to qualify–proudly competed in October in Austria at the 24th World Karate Federation Championships. At an assembly in his honor, he DESCRIBED THE EXPERIENCE.
His advice for kids? “Don’t ever say I can’t. There’s no such thing.”