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Black-belt social worker's plan to empower girls

Kathy Lahey, a certified self-defense instructor, teaches girls

Kathy Lahey, a certified self-defense instructor, teaches girls between the ages of 12 and 18 how to protect themselves from attackers during a program at Mt. Sinai Congregational Church. (Feb. 19, 2011) Photo Credit: Laurel Weresnick

Becoming independent is the essence of growing up, but sometimes it can also be dangerous. Kathy Lahey is trying to address this problem, particularly for girls between the ages of 12 and 18.

After years of seeing the effects on girls who were abused, Lahey, a licensed social worker who works out of Port Jefferson, decided she need to do something about it.

As a certified self-defense instructor and a black belt in taekwondo, Lahey created a self-protection program for girls called Taking Flight.

"I got tired of picking up the pieces of women who were abused," said Lahey.

The six-hour class teaches girls how to be aware of their surroundings and to defend themselves if necessary. On Thursday, Lahey completed a program at the Mount Sinai Congregational Church, and the results for at least one student was apparent immediately.

Emily Tacopina, 15,  of Mount Sinai said that the day following the class she noticed a dark van while walking, something she said she would not have noticed before. Although nothing happened, she feels better because now she knows what to do.

"It helps you be more aware,” Tacopina said. "I learned how to react and not show that I'm scared."

For now the program is offered when Lahey is able to rent space to hold the class, or when an organization, like the church, makes a request. Her goal is to eventually open an empowerment center, but until then Lahey will continue to offer programs to individuals and groups. She has even done a Sweet 16 party.

For further information on classes, contact Lahey at 631-255-3144 or visit the Taking Flight website here.

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