About us from founder Ilka T. De León

The term “ATLAPA” is a conjugation of the words Atlantic and Pacific and refers to the only place on the globe where these two oceans meet and integrate in what is considered the 8th wonder of the world; The Panama Canal.
I chose this name for the organization since it allowed me to pay homage to my parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Panama in Central America, and whose constant encouragement and guidance provided me with the appreciation and understanding necessary to achieve my personal, academic, athletic and professional accomplishments. The ability for these two powerful, and sometimes opposing, bodies of water to meet and integrate creates one of the most beautiful, natural and unique ecosystems in the world. As such it was and is my inspiration to create the same beauty and balance between two powerful forces; Education and Athletics.

interview with our founder

Foundation Programs

The ATLAPA Foundation’s process to develop and strengthen academic and athletic excellence will afford a variety of preparatory services to student athletes (to be offered primarily at their educational institution or local outreach centers) to include:

Goal Setting:

Our program will focus on the fundamental understanding of the meaning of goals, with specific guidance in using and setting specific, measurable goals to guide the student to set and reach both academic and athletic goals via the use of visualization, roadmaps, and hard work.  The focus would not be on the obtaining an A or on winning a game or match, but on the improvement of an individual’s performance and ability to set a clear path to reaching that goal.

There are distinct advantages to setting goals. Here are a few of the benefits noted in the research on goal setting in sports (Murray, John F, PhD)


  • Improved Performance
  • Enhanced Quality of Practice
  • Clarified Expectations
  • Greater Challenge and Boredom Relief
  • Higher Intrinsic Motivation
  • Pride, Satisfaction and Self-Confidence
  • Decreased Anxiety
  • Improved Concentration
  • Greater Sense of Purpose
  • Time Management
  • Self-Efficacy
  • Better Search For Strategies


Our program focuses on the development of positive social behavior through the establishment of the concept of sportsmanship, as it is well documented that adult positive social behavior is associated with social dimensions of childhood school performance ((Lambert & Nicoll, 1977; Parker & Asher, 1987; Wentzel, Weinberger, Ford, & Feldman, 1990).

As such, we strive to improve childhood school performance through the implementation of enrichment instruction that will define sportsmanship and teach, through practical examples and role play, the application of leadership, conflict-resolution without adult or authoritarian involvement, and the application of social behavioral skills that will lead to cooperative and complimentary environments both on the field and in the classroom.


The understanding that a single individual has a duty and responsibility to oneself, in addition to the ability to accept and embrace the fact that as a member of a team you are part of a whole, requires an athlete to visualize the “me” and the “we” in athletic participation. Our program will provide that understanding by teaching and strengthening that concept for children as it applies to Life-Skills, Academic, and Athletic performance and success.

We will support this area with integration of other program elements like Goal Setting and Sportsmanship.


Leadership is a concept that has bearing on a child whether they are by themselves or participating is part of a group. We will provide understanding of leadership and its implications on and off the field. Participation in our programs will allow for the student to gain a valuable understanding that they are their own leaders first and foremost. As such, students must understand that they do not have to “follow the pack”, but should have the strength and determination, through goal setting and visualization, to forge their own paths to reach established goals as an individual and also a part of a team. This topic will also be significantly covered within our Mentoring Program.

Enrichment Instruction:

The ATLAPA Foundation (TAF) Enrichment Instruction Team (EIT) is comprised of California Credentialed and active K-12 teachers who are well aware of the CA education requirements as well as the unique characteristic of also being current and active athletic participants. All of our EIT members have or continue to be competitive athletes who have participated in Intercollegiate sports at the Post-Secondary Level or beyond.

This unique “hybrid” experience provides real-time familiarity with issues, stressors, and expectations that your child(ren) may be experiencing on or off the field. Since the EIT members will also be role models and mentors for children enrolled in the program, it provides an even playing field between the students and instructors such that they can support the child with academic and athletic performance goals.

TAF Mentor/Protégé Program:

The ATLAPA Foundations Mentor/Protégé Program will support early establishment of a variety of concepts that will support positive social, emotional and leadership behaviors for student-athlete participants. Mentoring has been discussed as a strategy for positive youth development and as a deterrent of risky youth behavior (DuBois & Karcher, 2005), as a way to improve the academic adjustment, retention, and success of college students (Johnson, in press), and as a means to facilitate career development among employees (Kram, 1985)[ J Vocat Behav. 2008 April ; 72(2): 254–267].  The effects of participating as a mentor can assist with formation of social response norms and encouragement of other positive responses, which will can strongly influence a person’s future direction. 
This is an extremely important opportunity for the student to be the teacher, role model, and supporter able to provide relational support from the mentor to the protégé and vice-versa. 

Participation in the TAF Mentor Program will support establishment of a valuable element of a student’s Curriculum Vitae (CV) for use in their College and University applications.  With the amount of students applying for a small but coveted number of seats for the fall every year, it is important to focus on the development of a well-rounded application for admission that reflects the student’s character and potential as a future member of that institution’s student body.  Participation in the Mentor program will assist this effort as it will support inclusion and mention of specific experience in community service hours and volunteer work.  These activities will improve the view of your student and help in communicating their ability to think outside the box for the benefit of others. It will also create an opportunity for valuable lessons and understanding they will take away from the Mentor/Protégé experience for the remainder of their lives.

Students are able to begin participating in our mentor program once they reach the 5th grade. 


  • As such, 5 – 6th   grade students will act as our Stage 1 Mentors.  The protégé group for Stage 1 will be students in the K-4rd grade. 
  • Next is our Stage 2 Mentors that will begin in grades 7 – 8th grade. The protégé group for Stage 2 will be students in the 5-6th grade.
  • Lastly is our Stage 3 Mentors which will begin from 9 – 12th grade.  The protégé group for Stage 3 Mentors will be students in the 7-8th grade and any other student(s) that has not been setup with a Mentor from any grade below their own.  

We look to our Mentor Program to provide an opportunity to for the student to summarize program elements in one fashion during which the student Mentor is now able to take the role of teacher while relating to their role as student with their protégé.  The student will apply what they have learned which will further strengthen the depth of learning, retention and use of skills in other scenarios.

ACT/SAT Test Prep:

As a service to our Junior and Senior students, we will provide ACT and SAT test preparation. This will include practice tests, test taking skills, focus and recollection techniques. In addition, we will provide support for test and re-test enrollment.

Admission Application Workshops:
This unique “hybrid” experience provides real-time familiarity with issues, stressors, and expectations that your child(ren) may be experiencing on or off the field. Since the EIT members will also be role models and mentors for children enrolled in the program, it provides an even playing field between the students and instructors such that they can support the child with academic and athletic performance goals.

Our support will include:

  • Admission Application Support
  • Explanation of Federal Financial Aid and application support
  • Explanation and identification of Scholarship opportunities and application support

Program HighlightUnited States Karate Academy begins enrollement for its Scholar Martial Artist – White to Black College Prep Program.

The ATLAPA Foundation (TAF) and the United States Karate Academy (USKA) have joined forces to collaborate on a customized college prep program for enrolled students of the Karate Academy. 

The Scholar Martial Artist (SMA) – White to Black College Prep Program™ will focus on supporting students of all ages with advancement from current grade levels to acceptance into an accredited College or University.  The program was born out of recognition that the TAF mission, to improve academic performance for children of all ages, via a unique program integrating educational achievement with athletic performance and the establishment of practical life skills with social/emotional enrichment, and the USKA mission, to develop children and adults to be their best through the martial arts by being physically fit, mentally sharp, emotionally stable, and spiritually sound in order to have productive citizens for our great society, were completely complimentary concepts.  The integration of objectives gave way to the SMA program that was also complimentary to the fact that the USKA had a specific endeavor to become a feeder organization for students entering the Unites States Naval Academy (USNA).  The studio Owner and Chief Instructor, Mr. Salvador C. Convento, is a US Naval Academy graduate and a former Navy pilot.

The United States Karate Academy focuses on Tang Soo Do Martial Arts. literally translated, the word “Tang” refers to the T’ang dynasty of China, which reflects the shared cultural background between China and Korea (617-907AD). “Soo” means hand but implies fist, punch, strike or defense, and “Do” means way of life. Thus “Tan Soo Do” means the Korean classical martial art that was influenced by the T’ang method of martial art.

The program meets once a week at the USKA and also provides additional mentor opportunities for US Naval Academy applicants as there are a variety of USNA graduates that are also students of USKA and will be a strong force in encouraging progress throughout the program.  While there is no requirement to apply to the Naval Academy, students looking for a great sport that will support the health of mind, body and soul with the desire to enter college should seek further information. Please visit our contact us page to inquire further and make the commitment to education and physical health today!