A local school kicked off its Read-a-thon Monday by inviting back a former student-turned-martial arts world champion.
Nathan Skoufis spent all nine of his elementary school years at Aberfoyle Public School.
The fifth-degree black belt holder returned Monday to speak to the school's entire student body with a message of perseverance and the importance of literacy.
Speaking to GuelphToday immediately after the event, Skoufis said it was surreal to be back at his former elementary school that he graduated from in 2008.
“I haven’t stepped foot here in 10 years. The gym seemed a lot bigger back then,” he quipped.
Now 23 years old, a lot has happened in Skoufis’ martial arts career since leaving Aberfoyle Public School, leading up to a few weeks ago when he became the first martial artist to win North American Sport Karate Association and National Black Belt League championships in the same year.
“That’s a goal I set for myself 15 years ago,” said Skoufis.
Although he was not working at the school when Skoufis attended, Aberfoyle Public School principal Paul Tribe said it was great to welcome him back to speak to the kids about literacy and perseverance.
“Because he spent his whole elementary career here, it was kind of special for him to come back and speak to the kids,” said Tribe.
Immediately after his talk, Skoufis presented Tribe one of his gold medals in a frame to be permanently displayed at the school.
Skoufis said it was important for him to give back to the elementary school that helped shape who he is today.
“When they look at it they will know I went through the same things they did. Just knowing if they set their goals, they can definitely achieve them,” said Skoufis.
“We will be hanging it in the hallway for the kids to enjoy,” said Tribe.
Aberfoyle Public School’s Read-a-thon campaign will run the entire month of February, with a goal of raising $6,000 toward furniture upgrades, technology and supplies for its library.
In 2014, the last time the school held a Read-a-thon, the school raised $5,000.
Skoufis is currently a student at University of Guelph, where he studies business, nutrition and child psychology.
In addition, Skoufis is owner and lead instructo of Guelph Family Martial Arts.
He said he is looking forward to 2020, when karate will make its first appearance as an Olympic sport. Skoufis hopes to qualify and represent Canada.
Tribe said he thinks Skoufis’ message of perseverance resonated wih the students.
“If you keep on reading, you will get better at it and don’t give up. and it’s worth it in the end,” said Tribe.
Skoufis will go on to do additional speaking engagements at local schools, which will also include an anti-bullying message.
He said he plans on doing a lot more speaking engagements in the future.
“I think that’s the number one thing, trying to inspire people with my story,” said Skoufis.