“Fighting For Change” – Y-CAP boxing changes lives in Chattanooga


SUPPORT FOR GREATER CHATTANOOGA IS PROVIDED
BY EPB FIBER OPTI CS AND UNUM. I USED TO GET IN FIGHTS ALL THE TIME, LIKE
I HAD ANGER ISSUES. I USED TO GET REAL, REAL MAD. THE ANGER WAS COMING FROM MY DAD NOT BEING
THERE, ME NOT BEING ABLE TO DO THINGS THAT MOST KIDS COULD DO, AND MY MOM BEING AN ALCOHOLIC. WHEN I’M BOXING I FEEL LIKE I CAN LIKE,
ALL THE ANGER THAT I HAVE BUILT UP, I CAN JUST RELEASE THAT OUT ON SOMETHING THAT’S
NOT BAD YOUTH COMMUNITY ACTION PROJECT STARTED IN
1998 BY MY FATHER JOE SMITH. IT’S A YMCA PROGRAM. WE’RE UNDER THE YMCA UMBRELLA OF METROPOLITAN
CHATTANOOGA. WE WORK WITH MIDDLE SCHOOL AGE KIDS THAT ARE
REFERRED TO US THROUGH THE JUVENILE COURT SYSTEM, PRINCIPALS, GUIDANCE COUNSELORS, BUT
THEY’RE KIDS THAT’VE BEEN IDENTIFIED AS AT RISK, AND YOU KNOW, HAVE TAKEN A WRONG
TURN OR ARE STRUGGLING SOMEWHERE IN THEIR LIFE AND THEY NEED THAT EARLY INTERVENTION. WHAT THE STAFF HERE YCAP IS TRYING TO DO IS
TO INTERVENE IN THESE KIDS’ LIVES WHEN THEY’RE JUST STARTING TO ACT OUT AND GET IN TROUBLE
SO THAT YOU DON’T READ ABOUT THEM SHOOTING ONE ANOTHER IN THE NEWSPAPER. 90 PERCENT OF ALL JUVENILE CRIME TAKES PLACE
BETWEEN THE HOURS OF 3 AND 7. THOSE ARE THE HOURS THAT KIDS ARE GETTING
OUT OF SCHOOL, NO PARENTS AT HOME AND THEY HAVE THE MOST FREE TIME. THE KIDS ARE JUST BORED. THERE’S NOTHING TO DO. SO THEY GET IN TROUBLE AND THEN THEY HANG
WITH THE BAD CROWDS AND THE GANGS. THEY DON’T HAVE FAMILY, SO THEY THINK THAT
THE GANGS ARE THEIR FAMILIES AND THEN THEY END UP GOING DOWN A WRONG PATH. WE FEEL LIKE THAT IF WE CAN GET THEM BUSY
DOING SOMETHING OUT OF SCHOOL AND DURING THOSE TIMES THAT WILL DETER THEM FROM GETTING INTO
TROUBLE, THAT WE’RE A SUCCESS RIGHT OFF THE BAT JUST BECAUSE OF THAT. WHEN YCAP STARTED IN ’98, WE STARTED OUT
DOING A LITTLE LEAGUE FOOTBALL TEAM. AND THEN WE REALIZED THAT WHEN FOOTBALL IS
OVER WITH, IT WAS KIND OF LIKE, OKAY WHAT’S NEXT? AND SO WE JUST DECIDED, HEY, LET’S TRY BOXING
AND GIVE IT A SHOT. AND WHAT I LEARNED VERY QUICKLY IS THAT I
COULD REACH A LOT OF STREET TOUGH INNER CITY KIDS THROUGH THE SPORT OF BOXING. SOME OF THEM GET TO FIGHTING IN SCHOOL AND
THEN THEY COME HERE AND THEY FIND OUT THAT THEY’RE NOT SO BAD AFTER ALL. BUT SOME OF THEM, THE ONES THAT DO GET IN
TROUBLE FOR FIGHTING A LOT, AND THEY COME IN AND WE FOUND OUT WOW THIS KID CAN REALLY
FIGHT. SO NOW HE FINDS OUT HE CAN FIGHT WITHOUT GETTING
IN TROUBLE. SO YOU KNOW THAT’S THE TRANSITION. WE LOOK AT “AT RISK” AS A LOT OF DIFFERENT
FACTORS. SO, SINGLE PARENT HOMES, A LOT OF KIDS BEING
RAISED IN THE STATE CUSTODY OR IN FOSTER CARE. A LOT OF KIDS BEING RAISED BY GRANDPARENTS. SO DADS ARE ABSENT FOR A BIG DEGREE. MANY OF THEM WILL GO HOME TONIGHT AFTER THE
PROGRAM IS OVER, THE ELECTRICITY IS TURNED OFF OR THE WATER IS TURNED OFF. THERE’S NO FOOD IN THE REFRIGERATOR. YOU KNOW, WHEN I WAS GROWING UP, MY MONSTERS
WERE VERY, VERY PRETEND. AND TO THESE KIDS, MONSTERS ARE VERY, VERY
REAL. KEYVON HAS BEEN WITH US FOUR YEARS NOW. AND,
PRETTY TOUGH BACKGROUND, EVEN TO A POINT, AT ONE POINT IN HIS LIFE, WAS HOMELESS. WE HAD TO LIVE IN A SHELTER BECAUSE MY MOM
AND MY STEPFATHER HAD GOT IN A FIGHT, SO WE WERE LIVING IN A SHELTER AND IT WAS HARD BECAUSE
IT WAS ONLY TWO BEDS AND I HAD TO SHARE A BED WITH MY BROTHERS. YCAP JUST STAYED REALLY CLOSE TO THE FAMILY
AND HE HAS A GREAT MOM WHO JUST REALLY WANTS TO DO THE RIGHT THING FOR HER CHILDREN, SINGLE
MOM. AND WE KIND OF HELPED HER THROUGH THAT PROCESS, GOT HER IN A HOME. THEY PROVIDED FOR ME AND MY MOM AND MY BROTHERS. AND THEY REALLY GAVE US A LOT, BECAUSE WHEN
WE MOVED INTO OUR NEW HOUSE, THEY ACTUALLY HELPED US WITH BEDS, THEY GAVE US NEW TVS,
PILLOWS AND STUFF LIKE THAT. AND LIKE EQUIPMENT FOR THE HOUSE. OUR STAFF HERE, NUMBER ONE, UNDERSTANDS THAT
WORKING AT YCAP IS NOT A JOB, IT’S A LIFESTYLE. AND WHAT DOES THAT LIFESTYLE MEAN? WELL THAT LIFESTYLE MEANS YOU’RE GOING TO
BE A FATHER FIGURE OR A MOTHER FIGURE. YOU’RE GOING TO BE A BIG BROTHER FIGURE A
BIG SISTER FIGURE. WE WANT TO DO EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO MAKE
SURE THAT EVERY CHILD THAT COMES HERE IS SET UP FOR SUCCESS. EVERY DAY WE SPEND ONE HOUR IN WHAT WE CALL
GROUP THERAPY AND WE FEEL LIKE IT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT WE DO, BECAUSE WE FEEL
LIKE YOU’RE NOT GOING TO GET TO THE GRADES AND THE ACADEMIC PIECE UNTIL YOU GET TO THE
ROOT OF THE PROBLEM. SOME KIDS, THEY THINK THEY’RE COMING TO
YCAP JUST TO BOX. BUT THEY’RE GETTING A LOT OF OTHER STUFF
THAT THEY DON’T EVEN KNOW THAT THEY’RE GETTING. AND SO WE TRY TO REALLY TEACH THEM AND LET
THEM KNOW THAT IT’S OK TO HAVE PROBLEMS. AND WHY YOU’RE IN THIS PROGRAM BECAUSE WE’RE
ALL HERE FOR A REASON. I WANTED TO IMPROVE ON MY BEHAVIOR AND LIKE
MY GRADES AT SCHOOL BECAUSE I USED TO GET IN FIGHTS ALL THE TIME. AND MY GRADES WERE REAL LOW. I WANTED TO BECOME BETTER. I WANTED MY GRADES TO BE HIGHER. I DIDN’T WANT TO BE LIKE THAT NO MORE. WHAT THE YCAP STAFF IS TRYING TO DO IS TO
GET THESE KIDS TO OUTGROW, LITERALLY OUTGROW, FROM A MATURITY STANDPOINT, THE ADULTS IN
THEIR LIFE AND MAKE BETTER CHOICES AND UNDERSTAND THAT THERE IS HOPE. WE TEACH THEM THAT LIFE’S GOING TO PUNCH YOU
IN THE FACE AND YOU EITHER LAY DOWN OR YOU GET UP AND YOU FIGHT BACK. AND THERE ARE GOING TO BE THINGS THAT’S GOING
TO HAPPEN TO YOU THAT’S GOING TO BE COMPLETELY OUT OF YOUR CONTROL BUT HOW YOU HANDLE THAT
SHOWS WHAT YOUR CHARACTER IS MADE OF. AND KEYVON, HE’S A WORLD CHAMPION BOXER AND A
GREAT STUDENT AT BRAINERD HIGH SCHOOL. COMING TO US, BEING ON PROBATION, TO NOW,
AN A, B STUDENT, YOU KNOW, FOR US IS JUST A HUGE SUCCESS. THE MOST IMPORTANT I LEARNED HERE IS TO BE
CONFIDENT, LIKE BE A LEADER, HELP OUT OTHER PEOPLE THAT’S GOING THROUGH THE SAME THING
YOU’RE GOING THROUGH. AND THEN THEY DON’T HAVE TO GO THROUGH THAT
BAD ROAD THAT OTHER PEOPLE HAVE BEEN THROUGH IN LIFE. BEING SURROUNDED BY PEOPLE WHO LOVE YOU AND
YOU’RE SEEING LOVE EVERY DAY YOU’RE ABSORBING THAT LOVE THAT ENERGY AND THAT FELLOWSHIP
WITH YOUR BROTHERS AND THEY LEARN HOW TO CARE FOR PEOPLE. YOU’RE JUST PASSING IT ON IT’S CONTRIBUTING
TO THE CYCLE. THAT’S THE WIN. THAT’S THE WIN. AND I GET EMOTIONAL WHEN
I THINK ABOUT THOSE KIDS AND WHERE THEY COME FROM AND NOBODY GAVE THEM A CHANCE. AND THEY COME IN HERE AND THEIR LIFE CHANGED
ALL BECAUSE SOMEBODY CARED. SOMEBODY CARED. SO IT’S WHY IT’S SO IMPORTANT FOR PEOPLE TO
GET INVOLVED IN OTHER PEOPLE’S LIVES AND I SAY IT OFTEN. IT’S JUST LOVING ON FOLKS. JUST LOVE ON SOMEBODY. AND THEN YOU CAN CHANGE LIVES. IF YOU’RE A FAN OF GREATER CHATTANOOGA, SUPPORT
IT. BECOMING A SUSTAINING MEMBER OF WTCI IS EASY
AND AFFORDABLE, AND IT MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE. VISIT GREATER CHATTANOOGA.ORG/DONATE. THANKS!

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