WALLINGFORD — Families with limited financial means who are looking to help their children develop as leaders by studying martial arts now have access to a new scholarship.
The fundraising effort for the Tristan D. Barhorst Leadership Martial Arts Scholarship Fund began this past June. Three months later, the fund’s founder and the sensei of Leadership Martial Arts, the Plantsville-based studio where Barhorst had studied, announced they are now ready to accept nominations for the first group of scholarship recipients.
“We are all so excited to award the first annual Tristan Barhorst Leadership Scholarship in memory and honor of Tristan,” Barhorst’s mother, Christi Carrano wrote in an announcement last week.
“If you know a worthy recipient please have them apply. We want to help!”
Barhorst was 10 years old, attended St. Bridget School in Cheshire, and had just completed fourth grade, before his sudden death last June. He was struck by a motor vehicle.
Barhorst was also an enthusiastic karate student. He had reached the status of junior black belt in a little more than three years at Leadership Martial Arts, and was only a step away from earning his full black belt. His family has since received a posthumous black belt in his honor.
Rick Griffin, the studio’s sensei, described Barhorst as a huge part of the school.
“As a student he put his all into perfecting his Art and continually improving. As an assistant instructor he brought overwhelming positivity with an infectious smile and personality. We miss him every day,” Griffin wrote, describing him as “truly a living example of all the benefits of Martial Arts: Strong, Confident, Respectful, Focused, and Disciplined.”
Griffin described the boy as having been not only physically gifted, but respectful, caring and hard working. He was eager to share his knowledge with younger karate pupils and became a junior instructor at the school.
In addition to the scholarship, Griffin announced a new award to be given to outstanding students at the studio each year. It’s called “The Tsunami Award of Excellence,” referencing the nickname Griffin had bestowed upon his pupil.
Lydia Sobkiewicz, a 14-year-old Southington resident, is the award’s first recipient. She and Barhorst had enrolled at Leadership Martial Arts at the same time, said her mother, Celeste Sobkiewicz. She said learning Lydia received the award was “unbelievably emotional.”
“We’re just honored,” Celeste Sobkiewicz said, describing her daughter as someone who is able to forge bonds not just with children younger than her, but with the elderly as well.
Celeste Sobkiewicz described the scholarship as an exciting opportunity for students who might not otherwise be able to access martial arts. She’s seen her daughter progress tremendously due to her involvement in martial arts.
“What it’s done to help Lydia grow, and the opportunity to be able to provide it for somebody who can’t afford — it’s invaluable,” Celeste Bobkiewicz.
Carrano had her own accolades for Griffin, who had been an instructor for both of her children.
“Sensei Rick has just been so amazing to our family,” she wrote.
“Sensei Rick is a dedicated instructor, family man, and friend. He has made it clear that he will never let Tristan be forgotten and that Tristan will live on in his studio. We are so unbelievably appreciative for all the love and support that he has shown our family,” Carrano said.
“Sensei Rick has put so much of his time and energy into designing and creating a beautiful memorial tank top, t-shirt and sweatshirt that honors Tristan’s memory and keeps him with us—and will also help continue to support Tristan’s Scholarship as any profit goes to the scholarship.”
Proceeds from those sales and other donations provided enough funding to officially launch the scholarship, Carrano explained.
Griffin and the family collaborated on the terms of the scholarship, with Griffin taking the lead in making information about it known to the public. He offered to fund half of each scholarship given in Barhorst’s memory.
How to apply
Applications for the scholarship can be sent to either Griffin, at email@example.com or Carrano at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those applications should include a one-page letter detailing why a family needs the opportunity, along with two references to confirm applicants meet eligibility requirements.
The scholarship seeks to benefit families “in the most need of some financial or emotional support for their child.”
For those awarded the scholarship, it would cover 100% of the cost of martial arts lessons for one year, including the cost of uniforms, belts and the costs of testing, with a focus “on developing the individual as a whole, both mentally and physically.” It will include a uniform and all belts and testing.
Once the scholarship has been awarded, there are requirements for awardees to maintain it: they must attend eight classes a month, their parents must maintain continuous involvement with their martial arts studies, and students must adhere to the rules and culture of the studio.
“We pride ourselves on being one of the, if not the most, uplifting parts of our students’ day and do that through a strong culture of respect, discipline, and positivity,” a Facebook post describing the scholarship reads.