Patience. Dedication. Loyalty. Selflessness.

These are all powerful words, and words that Master Naomi Even-Aberly — owner of Full Circle Martial Arts Academy (FCMAA) — uses to describe Connor Quillen and Bonita Young.

Connor, 12, and Bonita, 13, of Rapid City have been active students at FCMAA for over three years. The brother and sister duo both recently tested for and received their junior black belts – an incredible accomplishment.

For Connor, who describes himself as a competitive person, “the most challenging part was going through the test. It was difficult because I didn’t know what to expect.” Connor broke all of his boards, which means he can advance to tackling new goals in taekwondo. Bonita — who completed her curriculum with no mistakes — said she achieved her junior black belt by persevering when things got difficult. “I worked very hard and never gave up,” she says.

Their performance and dedication to their martial arts is amazing, but their willingness to be mentors is what is truly inspiring, according to Master Naomi.

“Ms. Bonita and Mr. Connor work and volunteer with our youth taekwondo class year round as assistant instructors,” explains Master Naomi. “I am truly proud of both Ms. Bonita and Mr. Connor for their selflessness and willingness to step up for their martial arts family.”

Connor says helping Master Naomi with class is a blast. “I love to help the little kids from my class get better at martial arts!” For Bonita, the best part about being a youth taekwondo instructor is getting to work with others. “I like to demonstrate the techniques for people,” she says.

Being involved in martial arts at FCMAA is important to Bonita because the people are fun and friendly. “They teach us so many things,” she says. “I get to help other people learn, while learning myself.”

Connor enjoys martial arts because it helps him defend himself. “It also helps me with my focus,” he says.

Both kids appreciate the focus and clarity that martial arts involvement provides for their lives. Because of their martial arts training, they are able to stay mentally and physically sharp for school and sports. Connor is in the 7th grade at Douglas Middle School, where he plays football and basketball. Bonita is involved in volleyball and track at Douglas Middle School, where she’s an 8th grader.

Now that they’ve accomplished their junior black belts, the sky is the limit for what these strong, fearless kids can do next.



words Molly Barari

photos Jesse Brown Nelson