Chicago Youth Boxing Club uses sport to teach values, stop violence

August 2, 2012 3:30:18 PM PDT
Teaching kids how to throw punches may not be the first thing that comes to mind when faced with the challenge of stopping the violence, but a team in the Little Village neighborhood is doing just that. It's how they show their ''spirit of giving.''

Don't let the fighting fool you. Gabriel Navarro says he is changing lives in his Little Village neighborhood one punch at a time.

"What we're teaching them here, we're telling them not to use it in the streets," Navarro said. "It's only for sport. The main thing is keeping the kids off the street."

The Chicago Youth Boxing Club, 2300. S. Millard Avenue, is a non-profit youth development group that uses boxing teach values, including discipline and respect. Organizers say it's one of their best weapons in the war against violence.

"It gives them a place to do something," said board member Sylvia Del Raso. "We don't have any green space in this area and we're a very populated area and being here keeps them away from being out on the street."

Students say the competition and support help boost self-esteem.

"Some of my family members, they're like, 'Wow, you're a girl and you do boxing', a sport that it's unusual for girls to do," said 14-year-old Victoria Casimiri.

For others, the small gym tucked in the basement of the La Villita Community Church serves as a safe haven.

"When you come in the gym and you work out, you leave all the negativity when you're punching the bag and then when you come outside the gym, you feel positive, like relief," said 18-year-old Jawuan Johnson.

Ricardo Chavez, 21, was 12 when he first joined the program. He recently turned pro. But the training he received here is not the only reason he credits the program as a success.

"Because I didn't join a gang," said Chavez.

The Chicago Youth Boxing Club is hosting a women's boxing challenge on August 25th as fundraiser. It is open to boxers ages 8 and up.

For more information: www.chicagoyouthboxingclub.org


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