At George Jackson Academy, a Karate Sensei in the Classroom

IMG_0001Dan Varinsky

As a bullying-related suicide in Staten Island swept the headlines today, students at George Jackson Academy got a lesson in how to keep their community bully-free.

In a presentation about self-defense and inner strength that included lessons in deep breathing and non-violent assertiveness, John Mirrione, a karate sensei who runs Harmony by Karate on the Upper West Side, announced the creation of the Harmony Power Foundation, a non-profit that will fund similar anti-bullying presentations around the country.

Students of the school on St. Marks Place seemed to agree that bullying isn’t a big issue for them. “Some people might need occasional reminders, but I haven’t taken part in or seen any bullying in this school,” said Kai Parris. Still, the sixth grader appreciated the anti-bullying videos Mr. Mirrione showed. “You only need to use one word to hurt somebody’s feelings,” he said.

Vijay Ramkissoon, an eighth grader, agreed that the presentation still had relevant messages for the school. “How we can feel better about ourselves, that’s a problem for a lot of people,” he said. “Sometimes people don’t outwardly express that they don’t feel good about themselves inside.”

George Jackson Academy, a private all-boys school at 104 St. Marks, caters to academically strong students from low-income backgrounds. Over 90 percent of the school’s funding comes from donations, and no student pays full tuition.

David Arnold, the head of the school, said he brings in programming like today’s in order to teach students that they are their own agents in the world. “That’s our role, to front-load confidence,” he said.