Maggie Messina, owner and master instructor of TaeCole Tae Kwon Do and Fitness in Albertson, was awarded the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award and inducted into the American Martial Arts Alliance Foundation Hall of Honor July 15.
Messina said she was one of six people this year to receive the award for dedicating 4,233 of her hours to service for the nation and one of 100 to be inducted to the Hall of Honor.
“Throughout our country’s history, the American story has been strengthened by those who combine an optimism about what can be with the resilience to turn that vision into reality,” President Biden said in a letter to Messina. “I know I’m not alone in recognizing that those who are willing to step up to volunteer in service of community and country are essential to the ongoing work of forming our more perfect union.”
Messina said the accomplishments have been surreal but have not truly set in.
“It’s the highest honor and really a wow factor,” Messina said. “I’ve never done any of this for awards or recognitions, but it has been amazing.”
The President’s Volunteer Life Time Service Award is a civil award established by an executive order from President George W. Bush. The award honors volunteers who give hundreds of hours per year helping others through the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation.
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Earlier this year, Messina was one of three people inducted into the Ocean State Grand Nationals Hall of Fame in Rhode Island.
The extent of Messina’s accomplishments does not fit completely on one page, as shown by her website, let alone several walls at her studio in Albertson. She has been named master instructor and director of tens of locations, won numerous fighting championships and traveled the world competing. Her studio is lined with gold medals, championship belts and photographs of her travels.
Professionally, Messina first competed at Madison Square Garden in 1986, competing with her division in the gym corner near the bleachers and the bathroom. Since then, she has won multiple world championships in multiple sport karate circuits.
From upstate New York, Messina grew up in the foster care system. Living through poverty, she said, helped her achieve the determination necessary to reach the upper echelons of her sport.
Currently, TaeCole is in the middle of their summer camp program. but Messina is still looking ahead to empower women like her.
On Aug. 5 and Aug. 6, the 38th Annual U.S. Capitol Classics Martial Arts Tournament will take place in National Harbor, MD. Messina said it is the first year the tournament will feature the same prize money for both men and women and will be an event celebrating women and girls.
The push came with the help of the Female Fighters Matter Too movement, a campaign founded by Messina focused on creating opportunities for female athletes.
“We can live in the world that exists or we can create a world for others to live,” Messina said. “That’s how I feel I and others have done.”
With her lifetime achievement award, Messina is able to grant silver, bronze and gold President’s Volunteer Service Awards to children in the community, which she said she looks forward to doing.
“TaeCole is all about the betterment of the children and our neighborhoods,” Messina said. “We’re pillars of the community and we’d like to think of ourselves as a safe haven for everyone. It’s been 22 years and we plan on being here in another 22 years.”