Third-grader Jessie Miller is no stranger to discipline and commitment.
At only 8 years old, Ponte Vedra’s “karate kid” has represented Karate America of Ponte Vedra in statewide tournaments, received more than 50 awards for martial arts, and is fresh off a triple-crown win in the state championships in ATA Songahm Taekwondo. Miller currently holds a statewide first-place standing amongst competitors 1- to 8-years-old in form with 61 points, sparring with 25 points and weapons with 49 points through wins in events at the world, regional, state and city levels.
And she’s not done yet.
“I hope I can get my first-degree black belt soon,” said Miller, who currently holds a red belt. “And I’m really looking forward to going to district and world this year.”
As the state’s triple crown champion, Miller qualified to compete in the two-day, seven-state Southeast District Championship in Dalton, Ga in which the top 10 students of every state compete for the district title, where she placed first in weapons with a bow staff.
She will also compete in the 2016 ATA World Expo at the end of the month in Little Rock, Ark. hosted by the Grand Master of Songahm Taekwondo.
Her achievements have won her the praise of many, including Florida First Lady Ann Scott. Miller recently met Scott, an experience she called “amazing,” and received a letter from the First Lady congratulating her for her ATA wins and diligence.
“I know a lot of hard work and determination went into your commitment,” Scott wrote. “(It) is to be commended and recognized, especially in someone so young.”
Miller’s parents agree.
Ted Miller has seen his daughter’s efforts first hand, helping her with warm-ups and exercise, such as practicing in the water to improve her responses and seeing her through stretches, push-ups, sit-ups and punch combinations. He says he tries to support her growth by encouraging her to practice and honor her commitments.
“Jessie made a commitment at the beginning of the season this year to try for a state championship,” he said. “She’s exceeded it by winning three … her success is based on her desire to achieve respect – not only receiving it, but giving it first.”
That desire shows in Jessie’s passion for the sport. Ted says above all, she keeps the same three goals for every tournament: to have fun, to do her best and to make new friends. For those reasons, Jessie says the thrill of competing isn’t only in winning.
“I want to do it forever,” she said. “It’s fun because you always meet new friends and you keep them forever.”
Miller also has a message for other kids her age trying to reach their own goals.
“Don’t let other people tell you that you can’t do something,” she said. “I think all kids should work hard (toward their goals) – in fact, everybody should.”