The 2016 winner was Ms. Nicole Teaney. Nicole is a student and assistant instructor and Guilderland Martial Arts in Guilderland. She is currently 18 years old and just graduated from high school this year.
Here is an Update from Nicole:
I am incredibly grateful for the 2016 North East Open Scholarship. It means so much to have a community stand behind me even when times are financially difficult. Over the course of the year, I competed at many different tournaments and got to be a part of amazing experiences. Without the award, none of this would have been possible, and I wouldn’t have been able to follow my dreams.
I started my competition season off at Master Grogin’s Capital District Taekwondo Tournament back in the fall. I competed in forms and earned second place. It is always such a pleasure to watch the different variations of Taekwondo in the 518 Martial Arts circuit. It’s always enlightening to open my mind to the different practices of the sport.
As spring came around, I had the amazing opportunities to travel to several USA Taekwondo State Championships. The first of the series of tournaments was the USAT New York State Championships. Being that I just turned 18, I entered into a new age division that included 18 to 30-year-olds. Although that meant I had to work twice as hard to win a medal, I was ready for the challenge. I competed in forms and breaking, and I’m proud to announce that I earned gold in both divisions! The medal, however, isn’t what mattered to me— it was the experience. I’ve been traveling down to Queens, NY for this tournament every year since I was in sixth grade. It wasn’t looking like my family could swing this tournament this year… until I received the NEO Scholarship. I will be forever grateful for being able to keep this special tradition alive.
Two weeks after New York, I embarked on my next USAT State Championships: New Jersey. New Jersey has been known to have a higher level of competition than the New York tournament, which meant I had to train even harder to be a contender for a medal placement. What was unique about this tournament was that I was traveling without the best coach in the world, my instructor, Master Rice. No one else from Guilderland Martial Arts was attending this tournament, so it was just my mom and I traveling to New Jersey. In spite of the circumstances, I knew that I had to retain my focus because I wanted to make GMA proud. After a long six-hour wait before competing, it was finally time to compete in forms. In the end, I earned a silver medal after a great round of competition. I was quickly whisked away to the next ring to compete in weapons just minutes after the forms medal ceremony. Transitioning into a weapons-frame-of-mind, I was ready to compete with my fans. Although I was competing against a phenomenal bo staff form, I am ecstatic to say that my fan form beat the bo staff and I came out of that division with the gold.
Before I knew it, I was off again traveling to the USAT Massachusetts State Championships. Like New Jersey, I was the only person from GMA competing at this tournament. What was different about this tournament was that it was filled with members from Team USA who compete on the National Poomsae (Forms) Team. It was such an honor to even be in the same room with the athletes, let alone compete against them! It was such an amazing experience to talk with and get advice from the international competitors. With a stacked forms division full of members from Team USA, I was unable to place in the medals, but it was a blessing to be able to learn from the best.
Every time I think back to these remarkable opportunities, I smile because of everything that I earned. Aside from the medals, I took back with me more of an understanding, a plethora of knowledge, and wonderful memories. Without the generosity of the NEO Scholarship donors, I wouldn’t have been able to fulfill my goals in the Taekwondo community.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the incredible opportunities,
2016 NEO Scholarship Recipient