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Rad Kids teaches children how to defend against violence

Class is a safety empowerment program for kids

HOUSTON – When facing an attacker, does your child know what to do to get away?

Making sure the answer to that question is “yes,” is why Tanya Panizzo does what she does each day.

Panizzo teaches kids how to use their hands, feet and voice to ward off an attacker.

“(And) to use a very strong voice, to keep people away from them,” Panizzo said. 

Nine-year-old Olivia Weiss is part of the Rad Kids Program.

“I was nervous but really excited," Olivia said.

Rad Kids is a safety program that teaches children the decision-making and physical skills to escape a dangerous situation.

After a week of lessons, students test their skills against the "red man.” The kids encounter a real life situation in a safe space. The “red man” is dressed in a padded suit so the kids can hit him at full force.

“They can see how capable they can be of defending themselves," Panizzo said. "And then they're gonna run to the safe zone (and) they’re going to practice their verbal skills by dialing 911 and answering questions from an adult."

Panizzo said it’s important for kids to practice calling 911 during a mock-emergency situation.

“It's one thing to practice dialing 911 when you're sitting on the sofa looking at the numbers and you feel safe," she said. "But when you're scared and your heart rate is elevated and you're in somewhat of a stress mode, a lot of those skills go out the window if they are not practiced.”

Langston, 8, is also part of the class.

“I kinda punched him and kicked him and I used hammer fists,” he said about the so-called attacker.

Panizzo said having her own daughter sparked her passion for the Rad Kids Program.

“I had my daughter five years ago and that's when everything shifted for me," she said. "I'm a survivor of assault myself in (my) teenage years. I didn't know how to tell, (and) that's also a part of the program here today. How do we tell adults what has happened or what has made us afraid?”

Olivia's Mom, Sarab, thinks the effects of the program will be long-lasting.

“I think it's just a skill set that will carry them through life," she said. "As parents at home, we certainly say, 'Just run, (or) yell (for) help or (say) fire.' And then it's like, a two-minute conversation that's over with. This is two hours every day for a week dedicated to self-defense, learning how to observe your surroundings and also how to fight back when you need to."

As Sarab watched her daughter Olivia take on “the red man,” she found joy in seeing her child find her voice and the strength to stay safe.

“I was a little more stressed out the first couple of times," she said. "Today, it was really pride (that I felt) because I kinda got to see it full circle -- see her really step into her own.”

Rad Kids covers lots of other issues involving children's safety, as well. Topics include what to do when you find a gun, how to deal with bullies and even vaping.

The information is geared toward different age groups. For more information on the programs offered, click or tap here.