Lt. Michael Dolan and his wife Teri always had a heart for at-risk kids.
“But what could we do to help?” asked Dolan, who oversees the Collier County Sheriff’s Office’s substation in Immokalee.
The answer came as a result of the arrival of the Weed and Seed program to the Immokalee community in 2000. This effort focuses on preventing and reducing violence and drug and gang activity in areas that are shown to have high crime rates.
The goal of Weed and Seed is to have law enforcement and local community programs come together in a working relationship and to help reduce violence in at-risk neighborhoods.
Dolan, who has practiced in martial arts for more than 30 years, decided to fuse the teachings of kung fu and morality into a program for at-risk kids called Wise Tiger.
The goal is simple: Give troubled youths a discipline that encompasses both their body and mind.
The first Wise Tiger meetings were at Wilton Court in summer 2007. The program has catered to a variety of ages throughout the years but has decided to shift heavy focus to high school-age youth.
Presently, the Wise Tiger program is helping young girls who are part of the PACE Center for Girls program. The group meets Wednesdays from 1:40-2:40 p.m. at the gym as part of the program’s curriculum. About 30-40 girls participate.
After a student completes five classes, she receives a uniform at no charge to her to help continue her lessons. During each lesson a principle is discussed to help the girls understand what it means to be a good person.
Wise Tiger recognized some of its students for their efforts and dedication during an awards ceremony Wednesday at the PACE Center, 160 N. 1st St.
Selena Pruenda was promoted to yellow belt, Alexia Garze and Lisa Velez were named the most improved students and Mindi Martinez was presented with the Top Student Medal.
Earlier this month, Sheriff Kevin J. Rambosk recognized Dolan for his efforts with Wise Tiger by presenting him with the organization’s Good Samaritan Award.
“I’m very proud and honored that the Sheriff would take time to recognize me,” Dolan said. “My wife also plays an important part. She has been good helping to teach the girls to be girls.”