AURORA, Colo. -- Parents in Aurora are celebrating elementary school P.E. class. Its thanks to 7Everyday Hero Han Won Lee.
The Olympian is using his Taekwondo expertise to help students with their physical fitness and self-confidence.
Grandmaster Lee believes that if you believe in yourself, you can do anything.
"I tell my students, ‘It's you. No one else is going to help you. You have to do it yourself. You have to believe you have what it takes to be successful,’" said Lee.
Taekwondo has certainly helped Lee achieve his goals. The sport took him from humble beginnings to the Olympics.
"I am living the American dream. I grew up poor," said Lee.
Lee won a bronze medal in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, and he coached the U.S.A. Taekwondo team for 10 years.
Today, when he's not teaching at one of the three Taekwondo schools he owns, he travels to two Aurora elementary schools to teach the martial art.
"The minute he came in and told them what to do, all the kids kind of snapped to attention. And the teachers were like, 'Can we do this every day?' He is really strict with him, but he's kind. And they know it. The kids can tell," said Catherine Hepburn, P.E. Teacher at Laredo Elementary School.
"I want to go to the schools and help out, because I know they do not have a lot of money to do a lot of after-school activities. I want to make sure I find the Title 1 schools to go to," said Lee.
The classes at the schools are free. More than 300 kids graduated the classes this school year.
Lee provides the lessons, the uniforms and the belts -- all out of his own pocket.
"The greatest joy I get is when I put a uniform on a kid and his face just lights up!" said Lee.
"I think it's amazing he has donated so much of his time and energy and resources," said Georgia Becerril, mom of a third grader in the program.
Lee's lessons have not only exposed hundreds of children to something they might not be able to afford, he is also passing along important life lessons.
"It teaches them discipline, respect for self, respect for elders, parents, teachers and indomitable spirit, a never give-up attitude. I tell the kids to not make excuses in life. If you didn't do homework, there is no excuse. You just come in and say, "I didn't do it. No excuse teacher. It's my fault. I will do better next time,’" said Lee.
Lee often has the students repeat the commands in class so they learn they are worthy of greatness.
When he shouts "Stand tall, stand confident," the students shout it back.
"When you say it aloud, it makes you believe in it, even more than when someone is telling you," explained Lee.
Lee's lessons are transforming lives.
"I have a lot more patience in different ways. It teaches me a lot of good stuff," said 3rd-grader Ryan.
"I notice he looks at us when we are talking to him and has a little bit more patience," said Ryan's mom, Becky Miller.
Parent Georgia Becerril notices a positive change in her 3rd-grade son, too.
"He is more respectful. And I can prompt him sometimes when he's veering off and remind him of some of the points he's learned. That's been very helpful as well," said Becerril.
"To me, that is worth all the hours and all the money. Our children need that!” advised Lee. “That's all they need. Just give them the confidence. We have to empower our kids to be anything they can be. Now days, there are parents out there who want to be a friend with their kids rather than being a parent. Sometimes you have to put your foot down as a parent. I have more life experience than you do. You have to do what I say even though you may not like my decisions."
Grandmaster Han Lee operates Taekwondo schools in Castle Rock, Highlands Ranch, and Greenwood Village. To learn more, go to www.hltaco.com.
Mitch Jelniker anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30 to 7 a.m. He also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on 7NEWS. Follow Mitch on Facebook and Twitter. Nominate a 7Everyday Hero here.