Lou Parlagreco is only half-joking when he says he started training his daughter Johnelle Parlagreco in martial arts from birth.

“Her eyes weren’t even open yet, and I made her make a fist. Before she could crawl or walk, I’d have her block, and stretch her legs,” said the owner of Ultimate Martial Arts Academy at Festival at Hamilton Shopping Center in Mays Landing.

Mays Landing residents Johnelle Parlagreco and Thomas Ludwick, both 16, recently earned their fourth-degree black belts in Tae Kwon Do. It’s a level of achievement that only about 1 in 100,000 students ever reach, said Lou Parlagreco, 61. They are the second and third of his students to achieve it in his 17 years running the academy.

Johnelle Parlagreco and Ludwick have been taking classes three times a week for 11 to 12 years, said Lou Parlagreco, a seventh-degree black belt. Both are students in Atlantic County Institute of Technology’s Academy of Information Technology, where, Ludwick said, he is now building a robot.

And both want to join the military. Johnelle Parlagreco, a sophomore, is interested in aeronautical engineering. Ludwick, a junior, sees himself becoming an engineer, “repairing all the broken or battered machines they have out on the front lines.”

Military career

Brianna Cray, 2012 prom queen and graduate of Egg Harbor Township High School, recently finished basic training in the U.S. Army Reserves and is studying to become a behavioral health technician for the military, she said.

Cray, 18, a high school field hockey and softball player, also plans to study physical therapy at Richard Stockton College. She puts in one weekend a month, and two weeks a year, in the Reserves at Fort Dix in Burlington County. Her mother, Donna Cray, works at the township’s Board of Education office, and father, Jon Cray, works at the William J. Hughes Technical Center. Brother Chris Cray, 24, plans to join the Air Force, she said.

Volunteer judges

Artists Marilyn Brent, of Linwood; Lance Balderson, of Seaville in Upper Township; Michael Waters, of Ventnor; Steve Kuzma, of Margate; Paula Angelo, of Ocean City; and Judy Scull, of Vineland, all volunteer as judges for monthly shows run by the Ocean City Fine Arts League.

The league’s Art on Asbury Gallery, at 608 Asbury Ave., will feature their work this month, as will the Ocean City Art Center at 17th Street and Simpson Avenue. Receptions will be held Jan. 11, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the gallery and 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the arts center.

More stories to tell

Michelle Brunetti Post writes about the lives, careers and good deeds of southern New Jersey residents Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays in ‘Everyone Has a Story.’ To share your story, call her at 609-272-7219 or email MPost@pressofac.com