Digging yourself into a hole isn't where you want to be, unless you're teen black belt recipient, Matthew Rabtzow, who spent Sunday finishing up his community service project at the local dog park in Jefferson Township.

Matthew has been enrolled in Oak Ridge Martial Arts Academy since 2008, when he was five years old. Since then, he's progressed through the ranks and now at the age of 14, has completed the necessary requirements to earn his teen black belt.

Along with punching, kicking, and blocking, Oak Ridge Martial Arts Academy places a high importance on the community aspect of earning the black belt. Students choose a community service project then work to complete it during the journey to achieving their black belt.

Matthew's community service project involved building a landscaping boarder wall at the Jefferson Township Dog Park. To accomplish this, he worked with the dog park to determine what value he could provide to them. He first earned money by making and selling chocolate covered pretzels to his neighbors in Jefferson Township. Then, he used the money to purchase supplies to build the wall. Finally, after the ground thawed out from winter, he, along with his family, worked to build a wall around the sign which greets dogs and their pet parents entering the park.

"I wanted to do something to help the new dog park in town," he said. "It's new and they needed help with things at the park."

"Most impressive display of perseverance," was how Sensei Matt VanWolput described Matthew's final testing for his belt. Along with completing his project, Matthew needed to pass a very strenuous physical and mental test, involving cardiovascular, strength training, karate kata, and self defense skills.

Matthew attends Jefferson Township Middle School and along with karate, Matthew also enjoys playing lacrosse for both Jefferson Youth Lacrosse and Garden State Lacrosse Academy.

Story by Mark Rabtzow

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