NORTH RIDGEVILLE, Ohio — The Northeast Ohio community is rallying behind a 17-year-old boy with autism who was attacked at Polaris Career Center in Middleburg Heights. The violent assault was captured on cell phone video.
It's a story we first reported three weeks ago. Nick Hoffman is a junior at Polaris Career Center and Olmsted Falls High School. In the graphic video, Nick is seen covering his head while being repeatedly punched and kicked by another student.
After that story aired, the emails started pouring in from community members who wanted to make things right.
One of those viewers was Ed Powers, the owner of a local martial arts academy. Nick’s story struck a chord, so Ed reached out to 3News investigative reporter Rachel Polansky and asked if she could put him in touch with Nick’s mother to offer him free Jiu-Jitsu lessons.
“I was very upset. The fact that something like this can happen and no one stopped to help him or stop what was going on. I have a family member who is autistic, who went through something similar,” said Ed Powers, owner, Powers Martial Arts Academy. “The self-defense aspect is what we teach here, so how to get yourself out of a situation hopefully by not fighting. And if you have to fight, how to defend yourself.”
Nick's mother, Jennifer, asked him if he’d like to try Jiu-Jitsu, and Nick said yes.
Nick is now starting his third week at Powers Martial Arts Academy in North Ridgeville.
“I think he has grown just in the short time he's been here,” said Powers.
And this isn't the first time Powers has taught Jiu-Jitsu to a child with autism. After he taught a family member and watched him succeed, he developed specific programs for kids with special needs.
“Specifically with Jiu-Jitsu, its partner oriented so it helps with interacting with others, it helps with communication skills. and it gives them a structured learning environment,” said Powers.
Jennifer Hoffman said Nick is building his strength, his social relationships, and his self-confidence.
“Just to learn self-defense, to protect himself, he loves it,” said Jennifer Hoffman. “The support has been amazing. It’s really helped Nick get through a difficult experience.”
A spokesperson for the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office confirms that the boy who attacked Nick has been charged with assault, telling 3News, "To see an attack like this with nobody intervening is troubling. This surpasses the scope of bullying and will not be tolerated."