Newly promoted black belt recipient Paul Pemberton, a graduating senior at Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron, demonstrated perseverance and dedication on his 12-year  martial arts journey toward earning a black belt.

Paul Pemberton, a senior at Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron, earned his black belt in martial arts today. It’s an achievement 12 years in the making. “It’s like a miracle,” Pemberton says.

Pemberton’s martial arts expedition began in 2011, when he was in the first grade. His instructor, Sensei Chuck Rickard, Coordinator of Therapeutic Martial Arts for Summit Academy, describes Pemberton’s martial arts journey as one of perseverance, dedication and a desire to learn.

“To get a black belt requires physical skills and an understanding of those skills,” Sensei Rickard explains, characterizing the accomplishment as one of diligence and thoughtfulness, taken in meaningful strides, not quick dashes.

New black belt recipient Paul Pemberton, second from right, presents an advanced kata demonstration with his teachers, Sensei James Gydosh (far left), Sensei Chuck Rickard (center) and Sensei Josh Minnick (right).

Pemberton is the fourth Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron student to receive a black belt in the past 10 years, according to Principal Ralph Grant. Among the other alumni to earn black belts is Sensei James Gydosh, who now teaches therapeutic marital arts at Summit Academy Akron Elementary School.

Reflecting on his own early years, Pemberton says when he was in elementary school he never imagined he would someday earn a black belt. “It wasn’t until I received my red belt in middle school and started seeing progress that I kept my eye on the prize,” he says, referring to the coveted black belt.

Summit Academy Management CEO John Guyer with newly minted black belt recipient Paul Pemberton, a graduating senior of Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron. Guyer presented Pemberton with a commemorative certificate from the SAM Board of Directors, for his achievement.

Sensei Josh Minnick, Pemberton’s martial arts instructor throughout middle school, says his young protégé has always been a role model for behavior in the dojo as well as the classroom. “He is a leader, helping out when and where he can without being asked,” says Sensei Minnick, explaining how Pemberton unfailingly assisted with middle school martial arts promotion ceremonies and even co-taught Summit Academy Akron Middle School sixth-graders in preparation for their martial arts promotion ceremony, also held today.

With no regrets about taking the arduous journey toward his black belt, Pemberton says, “It’s definitely OK if people back down. For me, this was my only chance. I had to go for it.”

At his May 11, 2023 black belt ceremony, Paul Pemberton (second from right), shares a moment of pride with his principals current and past, from l-r: Ralph Grant, Principal of Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron; Dawn Presley, Principal of Summit Academy Akron Elementary School; and Crystal Yingling, Principal of Summit Academy Akron Middle School.
Paul Pemberton prepares to break a board, a skill that requires strength, precision, conviction and speed; one that symbolizes the ability to overcome obstacles.

Pemberton was honored at a special black belt ceremony in his name. As part of the event, Pemberton led Summit Academy Akron Middle School students in three katas (detailed choreographed patterns of martial arts movements). He also demonstrated five additional katas and Tamashiwara, or board breaking. A dojo-filled audience of students, staff, administrators, families and Pemberton’s past and present principals and teachers shared in the celebration of his milestone achievement.