NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — A program aims to combat juvenile crime with a combat class. Local boxers are giving back to the community by offering boxing classes for at-risk youth. Those classes are even taught by professional boxers who have been in these kids’ shoes.
Randall Venson teaches his students at International Boxing Academy of Nashville more than just footwork and jabs.
“Young people look for direction. They really do. They look for structure. You have to try to provide that for them, but first, you have to get them used to dealing with structure,” Venson said.
He comes from a social work back ground, and with every swing, he's instilling self-esteem, a healthy outlet for aggression, and critical thinking skills.
“When I visited young people locked up for murder and I asked them, ‘What were you thinking?’ You know what they tell me? They don't know,” Venson said.
He says that’s why teaching these kids to be critical thinkers and know that every move counts, can make such a big difference.
“I make everyone look at the second hand on the clock and say, ‘That one second, you make a decision in that one second, and it can ruin your life,’” Venson said.
It's why he's partnering with Metro Parks to start a free program for youth at the Kirkpatrick Community Center.
“Boxing gives them an opportunity to find that confidence and that self-esteem,” Venson said.
Professional boxer Edwin Reyes knows that first hand.
“For me, my parents, they weren't there. You know, I was kind of pretty much raised on my own and was raised on the streets, so, you know, I kind of took the wrong way when I was little,” Reyes said.
He turned his life around when he found boxing.
“When I came to the gym, I could still fight but not getting into trouble,” Reyes said.
Now, he uses his story to inspire kids to choose a better path.
“I can see the change because I tell them I've been there, I've been there, so I know what I'm telling you.
The International Boxing Academy survives off of donations. If you'd like to help out or are interested in signing up, click here.
Currently, it’s $40 to join the gym, but for those who can’t afford it, they waive the fee. The non-profit is starting the completely free program at the Kirkpatrick Community Center in September.
A sparring exhibition to raise money for the International Boxing Academy will be held on Sept. 14 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the academy's parking lot, where guests will be able to meet different boxers.