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Master Felicia is not playing: York woman kicks kids into shape with Tae Kwon Do

Master Felicia is not playing: York woman kicks kids into shape with Tae Kwon Do

  • Dr. Felicia O. A. Dennis wields a fifth-degree black belt, holds a Ph.D. in theology, and will soon serve as a York City Councilwoman. As an entrepreneur, she’s using the lessons of Tae Kwon Do to change the lives of York students and their families.
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Dr. Felicia O. A. Dennis shows up. It might be at school, it might be at home, it might be on the neighborhood block — but if she hears her students are acting up or being disrespectful, she’s going to get them in line.

“They realize pretty quickly that Master Felicia is not playing,” she says.

It’s that discipline that impacted her own life and inspired her to become the woman she is today. She was first introduced to Tae Kwon Do at 6 years old, when one of her older brothers would teach her and her siblings moves.

By the time she was 12, she earned a black belt. At 21, she opened her own karate studio and was the Head Instructor.

“It made sense for me to find a way to give back to my community,” Dennis says. “I wanted to change the narrative for kids who might have been seen as troublemakers.”

Today, the 41-year-old fifth-degree black belt runs Felicia’s Tae Kwon Do Karate Studio at the Yorktown Center, located in the Fireside neighborhood on Kelly Drive. It’s where students learn she’s there for them — as long as they show up for themselves.

“So many of these kids need someone to support them, but they also need to learn to put in the work, to get good grades, to make a difference,” she says. “It’s never just been about Tae Kwon Do. It’s about the intention behind it.”

Making time for her passion

Dr. Dennis packs a busy schedule. She works in Safety and Security for the York City School District and is employed part-time as an Ecosystem Coordinator for the City of York. She’s a youth pastor with a Ph.D. in theology and will soon serve as York City Councilwoman.

Still, she sees martial arts as her true passion and ministry. It’s the one outside of the four walls of the church, where she thinks she can make the biggest impact with the youngest of York’s residents and their families.

“I hope to one day have the largest studio in York,” she says. “I want it to help change the story for a lot of these kids. If they set the intention, if we can help them to think before they act. We can help them craft their own narrative.”

Los colores fluorescentes fluyen del pincel de Claudia Salazar para cubrir el swoosh de un par de Nikes. El espacio blanco se llena de azul, rosa y amarillo.

Nacida en Perú, pero residente en York desde hace ocho años, Salazar crea artículos que reflejan la vibrante herencia hispana que ha llevado consigo a través de los continentes.

Pero los hermosos colores que pone en un lienzo, en camisetas, en zapatillas o incluso en chaquetas de cuero son algo más que una representación de su origen: son un signo de su curación y de la vida que puede surgir del trauma.