Women’s History Month: The rise of martial arts champion Maggie Messina

News 12 has been spotlighting extraordinary women this month – one of whom is Maggie Messina, who has taught taekwondo on Long Island for 23 years to thousands of students .
Messina, who runs TaeCole Tae Kwon Do in Albertson, has a long list of accolades, including gold medals, championships and even the President's Volunteer Service Award. What she is most proud of is her time on the mat.
She teaches kids and adults how to protect themselves. She also teaches them how to be good people.
Messina grew up in the foster system, was homeless, and didn't have direction in life until she found martial arts when she was 18 years old. She says her struggles disappeared when she walked out onto the mat.
“I always felt like I was just as good as anyone else. I was never afraid to put the time in,” said Messina.
She is both a coach and a mother. Brandon Heard, 27, was Messina’s student when he was just 5 years old. After some family struggles when he was a teen, she hired him as an instructor and eventually adopted him as her son.
“She has helped me through every facet of my life, and I'm quite grateful for that,” he said.
“I knew this is what I'm meant to do. This is my journey. This is why I'm here,” she said.