SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - One by one, the kids came up and received their Certificates of Achievement from "The Officials Club" youth boxing program in Springfield. Members learned to grow stronger as people, build character and improve their futures.
The volunteer-based peace and character building initiative was almost derailed by the June 1st tornado two years ago. The tornado destroyed their home at the time, the South End Community Center.
Now, they train at the Brookings School and the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club. Members say the tornado took the building but not the heart of the program.
"It's entertaining but yeah, sometimes it's a lot of hard work as well. We put a lot of effort into trying to communicate with other people that we barely even know, and we became a family together," said Alex Ramos of "The Officials Club"
Juan Claudio gave a demonstration; he got into the program three years ago, and competes professionally now. Claudio mentors some of the younger aspiring boxers.
"Yeah, I give them a little bit back. So it's fun teaching other people what to do," said Claudio.
"The Officials Club" is part of the Mayor's Citywide Violence Prevention Task Force. Through boxing these boys and girls learn discipline, teamwork and strategic thinking; critical elements to personal and academic success. And it's working.
Erik Carrion, a graduate of the program, told 22News, "I was skipping a lot. Chilling with a lot of people, doing drugs and the program helped me get out of it. This changed my life to helping more people out to change their life and do good things instead of the wrong."
This is the fourth season of this seven-week youth boxing and character training program.