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Transforming the city, one student at a time

Their website says, "Trough The Power of We, My Future is up to Me". It's the mantra behind the non-profit Unity in Motion. What started in 2000 as a non-violent martial arts class for kids from Milwaukee's inner City, has blossomed into a comprehensive program where youth are nurtured and academia is championed. Allen Ruppel, founder of Unity in Motion, was using his Black Belt in karate to teach character and discipline to central city kids. He quickly realized they needed so much more.


Starting with kids as early as 4th grade, Unity in Motion develops strong, long-term relationships with both kids and their families. Through a team of dedicated leaders, instructors, volunteers and student mentors, Unity in Motion works with each student to make sure they are getting the academic help they need to succeed in school. "Everything we do at Unity is based on relationship," says Ruppel. "The first half of Unity in Motion is academic tutoring. We have high school youth working with elementary youth. Kids have to keep at least a 2.0 to advance in our program." Kids in the program move through a color-coded scale consistent with the color of belts rewarded in karate. For each color level earned, there is a celebration. Kids at each level are easily identified by the color of their Unity In Motion shirt.


Patrice Robinson's son has participated in the program for the last 9 years. He's now in High School. "As a parent, you get to see the growth. But you get to see what type of person your child is by watching them interact," says Robinson. "They'll step up and you'll see them take a leadership role." Unity In Motion values the older kids' so much that once those students hit the highest level, they are paid to come back and mentor the younger kids.


Another integral part of the Unity In Motion philosophy is Community Service. Ruppel says this helps "kids learn to connect with other people from different backgrounds, needs and abilities." But the biggest key to success, Ruppel explains, is quality over quantity. Although they could expand to help more kids, they continue to focus on long term support of fewer kids, until they can grow with more staff, volunteers and graduates. Wanna help? More info found here.


Listen to the story above to hear more from Allen Ruppel and Tyree, one of Unity's most enthusiastic students. 

Director of Digital Content | Radio Milwaukee