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A black belt in space

Meet the Future: Cora Kotarski

Name: Cora Kotarski
School: North Godwin Elementary
Passion: Taekwondo

Godwin Heights — Cora Kotarski is a fifth-grader with “lots of dreams.” She is currently studying taekwondo (a Korean form of martial arts), plays violin and hopes to one day have a career as an astronaut.

How old were you when taekwondo became something you wanted to pursue? “I started when I was 6 years old and I have done it for four years. When I was younger, I wanted to sign up for ballet class, but there were not enough sign-ups so I signed up for taekwondo because it was my backup choice and I fell in love with it. I first was at the YMCA, but then we found a closer place, the Kroc Center, which is in my neighborhood, that had taekwondo classes too. I have been there for three and three-fourths of a year. I like to do my forms, because I get to do a series of moves at the same time. Each belt has a different form. There are seven belts. I am a high green belt. The highest is black belt.” 

Fifth-grader Cora Kotarski hopes to one day reach the black belt level in taekwondo

A few related accomplishments: “Well, I can do this (Cora demonstrates a high kick) and I can break a board. I have a test coming up where I have to do some light sparring, demonstrate my form and then break a board that is an inch thick or half an inch. It is about one finger or two fingers thick. If I pass, I will be a blue belt, a low blue belt.”

Is there a teacher or teachers who have had a big impact? “I had Mrs. (Karen) Tidey who has been my teacher twice, because she was my teacher in first grade and then in fourth grade. I like her enthusiasm and she is nice. She actually recommended me for my talent. 

“My current teacher, Mrs. (Meghan) Shannon, helps me and she is kind. I love science because it is really cool and I like to experiment with things, and also an astronaut is like a scientist. We are learning about space right now in science. We are focusing on the four biospheres of the earth: land, water, air and living things.”

Do you plan to pursue this professionally? “For taekwondo, you can become an instructor but I don’t think I am going to do that.”

So where do you envision yourself 10 years from now? Cora said she’s been interested in space — and even decorated her room to match — ever since reading a book called “Questions & Answers: Space.” 

“Hopefully, I would be in college studying to be an astronaut or a scientist or an astronomer, whatever has to do with space. Maybe (I’ll be) a black belt in taekwondo studying at college to be an astronaut.”  

Outside of taekwondo, what are your other hobbies or interests? “I play violin. My instructor is with the Grand Rapids Symphony. I went to this concert at my neighbors’ backyard with a few people and I heard one of the violinists talking about how they had to do this (holds fingers in a V-shape.) I was fascinated with how violinists hold their fingers and also my neighbor is a violinist. I circled a violin and brought it home to my parents and for a Christmas present, they bought me a violin and gave me lessons. They did not actually buy it but got it from my mom’s aunt’s brother.

“I am also going to start Girls on the Run at the end of the month. My sister ran track and did Girls on the Run.”

The biggest lesson you have learned from your involvement in taekwondo is… “If you want to do something, do it. If you don’t succeed, you can just try, try, try again. That is my advice.”

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma covers Kent ISD and Godwin Heights. She was born in the Detroit area but grew up in Brighton where she attended Hartland Public Schools. The salutatorian for the Class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism and minored in photography and German. She expanded her color palette to include orange and black as both her daughters graduated from Byron Center Public Schools; maroon and white for Aquinas College where her daughter studies nursing and also brought back blue and maize for Grand Rapids Community College where her youngest daughter currently is studying music. Read Joanne's full bio


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