KINGSBRIDGE HEIGHTS, the Bronx (PIX11) — En garde and touché. With protective body armor and headgear, third, fourth and fifth graders from PS 340 in Kingsbridge Heights are learning a new sport that used to be only for the upper, upper class.
This is the first free fencing program in a New York City public elementary school and it’s teaching 9-, 10- and 11-year-olds to focus and concentrate. “Fencing is a sport that brings equity,” said Amy Turchiaro, the school psychologist. “Children who attend public schools never had this opportunity and now they do and they love it.”
Turchiaro is herself a fencer and worked hard to get a $10,000 grant from Signature Bank to bring professional coaches to teach elementary school students every Friday afternoon starting in February.
“Fencing is such a good sport, not only competitive but it’s strategic,” said Huey Tan, senior vice president at Signature Bank. “It helps people think and strategize.”
Fencing has been around since prehistoric times and has been a summer Olympic sport since 1896. PS 340’s principal has big dreams for these little fencers. “There are many colleges that are giving fencing scholarships, the Ivy League, Harvard and Cornell,” said Principal Alexei Nichols. “If we can plant the seed here for many of our students from middle school, college and career start here.”
Third-grade student Muhammad Adnan showed PIX11 News how to parry, while two other stars of the program are dreaming of the Olympics. Fifth-grade student Donik Cosovic described what he loves about the sport. “The movement, the stance, how to attack your opponent and block your opponent,” Cosovic said.
Fourth-grade student Yamika Padron explained what she loves. “I like how the coaches are strict and it makes you feel confident. It gives me motivation,” she said.
There is huge interest in this program at PS 340. There were more than 200 applicants for only 20 spots. School officials are hoping to grow the fencing program next year.