HOCC: “It helped me to discover who I was as an adult”

Humans of Calvert County, Sarah Merranko & Anita Santoyo

“I met Kyle when my children started taking Tae Kwon Do classes. I was having some discipline issues with my oldest son and I was looking or a little direction and a little help and Tae Kwon Do was recommended …and Master Kyle was recommended. I walked in one day asking for help and we sat and talked for about an hour and then I decided to sign him up for TaeKwonDo. Then one, by one we all took lessons after that. That was about eight years ago. It helped my son and since I started taking classes with him, it helped our relationship. It helped to give us a bond. Then my oldest daughter started taking classes, then my youngest daughter at the time started taking the toddler class and then that led me to my tribe of friends and that’s where I met all of my friends in Calvert County.

I started working there about 3-4 years ago. I was, at the time, training in Muay Thai kickboxing and I had a pretty horrific injury and I was forced to stop training for a while. When I got to the point where I was ready to be up and around, I couldn’t train yet, but I started assisting and teaching the class instead of training and I happened to be there one day when the position opened and Kyle needed help and I needed a part time job. The timing was absolutely perfect. That was on a Saturday and I started working on Monday.

My technical title was Office Manager, so I pretty much did whatever was needed. Everything but teaching classes. In a short amount of time I went from being a full time stay at home mom, to a part time employee, to a full time staff member. I was newly divorced after being a stay at home mom for 17 years, I didn’t have an Associates degree, this job gave me stability and confidence I needed to step out and make the changes I needed to make in my life. It helped me to discover who I was as an adult. It gave me confidence that I was capable of having a job and being good at it.


‘What are you going to miss most?’

…the families…the kids. It really is a family atmosphere. You really can’t quantify what that value is. Tae Kwon Do lessons are fabulous, the athletics are fabulous, it is good for your body and your mind, but it’s a really good place for your spirit. For me, it came at a time when I didn’t really know I was going to need it. That job filled a hole I didn’t know I was going to have.

The staff is pretty close. It’s a family. There’s a lot of pranking, too. They’re a fun bunch of really great people and they really care about what they’re doing. It makes it a really good place to work to know that they invest that much of themselves. Some of the instructors, people probably don’t know; but it’s part of their training to instruct, so they come in on their own time and teach classes.

Kyle literally became like my brother. We’re really close. He’s definitely a good boss and a good person to work for. He’s just genuinely a good person and that means a lot and it makes you want to do well for him because he is a good person. He invests so much of himself in that business, but it’s not just a business for him, it’s his family and his livelihood. Beyond just the financial side of it, he really cares about what he does and really believes in what he’s doing. It makes you want to believe in it and makes you want to work harder. He became my friend. It’ll be weird not to see him every day.

The studio is a safe place. I think that’s why people are attracted to the studio, because it is a safe harbor. It gave me a safe place to go when I was going through my divorce. There was a time when I didn’t even have a place to live. I would bounce from friend’s house to friend’s house and I was going to school and I needed internet, so I would sit in the parking lot and do my homework or in the studio and that’s how I finished my Associates degree. Kyle would let me do my work there. It was the place I didn’t know I needed and it gave me the self confidence I didn’t know I didn’t have. I had the house with the literal white picket fence, the dog, the kids, and the two cars, but I had no confidence and no self esteem. It was all just this outside, trying not to let anyone know what was going on in the inside. When that breaks, you have to hit that point and wait until that breaks until you can finally start over and start building. I was able to do that because I was safe there. I was able to start that rebuilding process. I fit in there and had a role that I could fill. That’s what I needed. It has helped me to find out who I am. It’s quite phenomenal to see the change in my self in the last three years. I believe that I have value.

I’m pretty excited though because in those three years, I’m 3/4 of the way through my second degree. I’ll graduate in March with my Bachelor’s Degree and now I’m starting a whole new adventure. I’m a little overwhelmed with my new opportunity and my new job that I’m starting on Monday. I used to live in a very small box of what I thought was possible, and this job is not even in the same zip code of what I thought I was capable of, so I’m excited for the opportunities and the adventures that are ahead of me.”