Gracie Martial Arts News
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Our Kids mixed martial arts program has expanded to 4 days. M/T/W 5:30-6:15pm
and Saturdays 10:00-10:45am. Two days of grappling and two days of boxing.
Chris Zuniga and a talented group of high school wrestlers joined The Forge for an afternoon of spirited wrestling practice. Dan Kedem joined in for take downs.
What does a pro MMA fighter do when he isn’t training for his next fight? Dan Pettus, advocate for foster children, Board member for the Alliance Child Service of Okeechobee and the Treasure Coast, electrical engineering student, restaurant staff worker and wrestling coach at the Forge Mixed Martial Arts tries to keep busy. He succeeds in a big way.
Twenty hours a week Daniel is a youth counselor at Deveraux Community Based Care of Okeechobee and the Treasure Coast where he helps other foster adolescents with independent living and does community outreach.
When Daniel isn’t line cook at a local restaurant to earn extra money (0f course he makes the best omelets for Sunday brunch), he teaches wrestling classes and offers private mixed martial arts lessons at the Forge Mixed Martial Arts and Fitness.
He is enrolled at IRSC taking 4 classes during the day. And he trains for an upcoming pro Mixed Martial Arts fight scheduled for February 1st, from 6:30-10:00pm (before starting his homework).
He was born in Tennessee but moved frequently to take advantage of financial assistance or to avoid difficult situations.. The family settled in Vero when Dan was 10.
Dan entered the foster care system at age ten and remained in foster care until he aged out of the system at age 18, having had 8 foster placements. He attended Vero Beach HS for 3 years, until relocated to Port St. Lucie due to a change in foster placement. While attending Vero Beach, he became intrigued by kickboxing and wrestling, a sport where he excelled and was captain of the HS wrestling team.
What happens to adolescents with no stable family support and no income once they graduate from HS? In 2002, a program called the Road to Independence (RTF) was enacted to give financial support and life skills training to foster care clients who have aged out of the system. Financial support would continue as long as the foster child stayed in school.
Dan, however, lost his way for a time at age 18. He dropped a class, thereby losing his funding under the RTF and ended up couch surfing for a year. He scrambled to re enroll in school, get good grades and make the Dean’s List thereby ensuring his eligibility for assistance.
Now, due in part to Pettus’ efforts, funding is provided to foster care individuals through a safety net signed into law Jan 1, 2013. Governor Scott signed the Nancy C. Detert Common Sense and Compassion Independent Living Act (SB 1036/HB 1315), which replaced the Road to Independence program. The new law would provide a monthly stipend as well as other benefits to former foster care children now aged 18-21. For a time, due to funding concerns, the bill’s passage was in danger.
Youth SHINE (Striving High for Independence aNd Empowerment) took to the halls of the legislature and lobbied elected officials to support the new law and to extend foster care as long as the individual finished HS or passed the GED and enrolled in continuing education. Furthermore,the law permitted re enrollment in care if a child did not meet the requirements for a period of time.
Pettus, as Chair of Youth SHINE, was in Tallahassee talking to every legislator he could. The bill was passed supported by 40 legislators.
Where the revenue comes from to fully fund the new law remains in limbo. But as Pettus says, it’s not something that can be swept aside or ignored. Kids, he points out, are a very vulnerable population. “The problem is kids are not equipped to handle the world at 18.”
With some financial stability from the state, Dan hopes to matriculate at FAU in a combined BA/MA program. Meanwhile, there is studying, work, teaching and that pro MMA fight coming up in February.*
*Subsequently this fight has been cancelled.