Honors College partners with boxing club to help at-risk students

January 25, 2013 | Features, UToday, Honors
By Casey Cheap

Students in the Honors College have teamed up with the International Boxing Club to “beat the streets.”

Working together, the college and the club have formed a collaborative that provides mentoring, tutoring and life skills for local at-risk youth.

The International Boxing Club was founded by Harry “Coach” Cummins, a former professional boxer, sports promoter and matchmaker, to help at-risk students stay off the streets. Students receive tutoring, help with homework, and a chance to hit the gym and learn some basic boxing skills.

Michael Gammo, a student in the Honors College, worked with a student in the International Boxing Club.

Michael Gammo, a student in the Honors College, worked with a student in the International Boxing Club.

The program is in line with the goals of UT’s Honors College to reach out and establish long-term, sustainable relationships with members of the greater Toledo community, said Dr. Page Armstrong, director of the Honors College Living and Learning Community.

“It is a great combination,” Armstrong said. “Our honors students work with kids who have never been on a college campus. We don’t want them to see college as a foreign territory. My goal is to get at least one of them into the Honors College someday.”

The program is “very student-driven,” said Dan Steyer, Honors College student. It started in fall 2011 and has never been short of volunteers. The 10 to 15 students who come to campus each week have built relationships with their mentors from the Honors College, Steyer said. In return, UT students have the opportunity to learn everything from how to fix drywall to photography and gardening when they go to the International Boxing Club in Oregon, Ohio.

Michael Gammo, Honors College student, said the program was both efficient and well-run, but the participants have to be willing to work.

“Coach is strict. Because so many students try to get into the program and are turned away, he makes the students sign a contract,” Gammo said. “They have to show up and be fully committed to it. He makes the students sign a contract because if they do not want to be here, he will make room for someone who does.

“In addition to boxing, Coach really opens their eyes to other trade applications,” Gammo said. “He shows the kids that they can do anything they want to do, and that they should not let other people tell them otherwise.”

Gammo referred to the program as a “gym class on steroids,” and pointed out that it is more of a physical workout than boxing. The students learn boxing techniques, but do not spar or practice on each other.

“It’s a lot of fun and really rewarding,” Gammo said. “At first the students are shy, but later they start asking questions and want the school work explained to them.”

There is even a chess club.

“It is really great to teach something like chess. It’s a great feeling,” Gammo said.

One student in the program was working through his parents’ divorce and it caused him to act out, but the program made a big difference, Cummins said.

“He has made remarkable improvement since he came to the International Boxing Club. His mother says she is amazed at the turnaround he has made,” Cummins said. “Now he has a positive environment and role models at the International Boxing Club. He was failing geometry, but through his work with UT honors students now has a B in geometry.”

The students in the program vary in age. Some are as young as 5, and some are 18 and already have taken the ACT and will enter college next year. The students come to campus every Monday at 5 p.m. to Sullivan Hall Room 2030.

Students, faculty and staff interested in volunteering can contact Armstrong at page.armstrong@utoledo.edu.

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