First-degree black belt Alexandria Krause knows the importance of discipline. That, along with self-confidence, is a trait she picked up in her six years as a tae kwon do student at Paramount Martial Arts in Somerset.
"Along with self-defense, the physical lessons and being able to protect yourself, it helped me feel more independent and confident," she said. "I was always shy and I feel that it really helped me come out of my shell."
Krause, 18, said her cousin was taking tae kwon do and she was drawn to the sport because she's always had an interest in Asian culture.
"I wanted to go be a ninja," she said. "I learned so much from Master Barb (Hauger). She just has a way of finding the best in you and bringing that out. She believes in you so you do, too."
Her curiosity about Asian, and particularly Japanese, culture grew from watching anime cartoons as a girl. She soon discovered she enjoyed the culture's music and food, too. She's had her sights set on Japan since the fifth grade, she said. This fall, she's heading to Elizabethtown College to major in Japanese and hopefully study abroad in Japan. One day she hopes to be a translator.
"I just think the language is beautiful," she said.
Krause's grandmother Phyllis Ohler said she knows Krause, a recent graduate from Somerset Area High School, has the drive to achieve her dreams.
"I always said Alex is the child that makes all of our whole family try to be better people," Ohler said. "She's an inspirational person. It was always all or nothing for her."
Krause kept busy during high school with student council, National Honor Society and Spanish club. She also has worked for two years at McDonald's restaurant along North Center Avenue in Somerset, and the business recently recognized her academic success and work ethic by awarding her a cash scholarship. She was one of six winners selected among applicants at 42 restaurants.
"Some of the skills I learned at McDonald's will carry over to any other job," she said. "I learned about team work, multitasking, being able to get a job done right and on time."