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Coastal Georgia Art Professor Exhibiting in Island Art Show
Posted 11/07/2014 12:00AM

Paige Carrasquillo knows kids behave differently when there’s money involved.

McKenzie Howell can’t keep her heels together as she swings 360 degrees on the vault, her feet flying apart to create a ‘V’ shape.

McKenzie doesn’t believe Carrasquillo, her gymnastics coach, when she’s told her form is wrong.

Carrasquillo leaves the gymnastics room at Karate for Kids and Brunswick Gymnastics and returns with a one-dollar bill. She folds it in half and sticks it between 6-year-old McKenzie’s feet and tells her not to let it hit the floor.

“If you drop the dollar, you don’t get a cupcake,” Carrasquillo says.

McKenzie swings again, and the dollar shoots out to the floor.

Point proven.

Carrasquillo leaves again. This time she returns with a green karate belt and ties it around McKenzie’s ankles, the dollar bill secured between her feet.

“Do it once, and you get the cupcake back,” Carrasquillo says.

First swing with the belt, and the dollar is still there.

“That tends to work,” Carrasquillo says. “One time, I had two 100-dollar bills in my wallet. They’re supposed to keep their arms raised (on the balance beam) but they always let them fall.”

The solution: make the girls keep their arms pressed against their ears with the bills in between.

“All of a sudden, they did it perfectly.”

Carrasquillo is living her dream as a gymnastics coach — at least for the next four years. She’s 18 years old, six months removed from high school and a freshman at College of Coastal Georgia. She also played for the Glynn Academy girls soccer team under coach Gary Larkins for three seasons and during coach Tom Lemmon’s first season, her senior year.

But her true love resides with gymnastics — and has since she was 4 years old.

“She sleeps and eats gymnastics,” says her mother, Vonda Carrasquillo, who along with husband Richard owns and operates Karate for Kids-Brunswick Gymnastics off Scranton Road in Brunswick.

“We would go on vacation, and there are pictures of her doing handstands everywhere we go.”

The gymnastics part of the family business was really inspired by the 4-year-old rants of Paige, Vonda says. Before then, the Carrasquillos operated a simple karate dojo in Brunswick.

There wasn’t a suitable facility for Paige to train in for gymnastics in the Golden Isles. So Vonda decided to build one.

The family moved the business to a larger building at Lanier Plaza and added a gymnastics program.

“She started it because I wanted her to,” Paige says.

“She built the business around it.”

It turned out to be a good investment, not only for Paige, but for the Carrasquillo family, especially when the recession hit in 2008. Vonda says she doesn’t think the business would have survived if their only specialty was karate. The family had just purchased their current building in 2007 and saw a hike in building insurance prices and a decrease in income.

With clients supporting them through karate, gymnastics and after-school care, they scraped by.

“If one dropped off, the other was able to compensate,” Vonda says.

“It was tough. We saw a lot of other businesses go under. Every week, it was a family that had to pull their child out because mom lost her job or dad lost his job. We were just glad when that stopped.”

Paige finally ceased from competitive gymnastics after middle school and took up soccer but turned down a soccer scholarship to a small Georgia college.

Gymnastics still had a grip
The Brunswick News
NATHAN DEEN

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