Beyond Boxing offers unique one-two combo of gym and classroom to juvenile offenders
Brooklyn nonprofit aims to help youths stay out of trouble
For a young boy released from prison today, the recidivism rate — or likelihood he will return to prison — within three years, is 70 percent. Read that again.
It’s a statistic front and center on the website of the new nonprofit Beyond Boxing, and it’s the main issue at the core of their mission. Their proposed program, to engage justice-involved youth in the environment of a boxing gym, is not focused on molding good boxers, but rather, good people. That’s according to founders and Brooklyn residents Andrew Neville and Rick Dean who are getting set to launch the pilot program at Brotherhood Boxing in Bushwick, along with boxing gym owner Ray Cuadrado.
The concept behind the program — to create a dual curriculum combining physical boxing training and social education in a classroom environment — was originally developed by Neville, a Brooklyn Heights native with an extensive background in education.
After working with at-risk and learning-disabled students for years, Neville joined a boxing gym at the behest of his friend, and quickly noticed the effectiveness of the instruction disseminated from trainers who were direct representatives of the at-risk community.
“These young people were building meaningful relationship with easily- relatable adults,” Neville said.
“They were literally using techniques Andrew had learned in education, but they had no idea they were using them,” added his partner Dean.
And once Neville saw this connection and the potential to help troubled youth, a mutual friend put him into contact with Dean, a fellow boxer, retired from a career in finance and active in the not-for-profit sector, then serving as Chairman of the Board for Civilians, a nonprofit Brooklyn-based theater company.
To Dean, the thinking behind the idea was strong enough to drag him out of retirement.
If Beyond Boxing is successful in their mission, “the kids win, the neighborhood wins, and every single taxpayer in New York wins,” Dean said. That’s because additional data showed the annual average cost per inmate to taxpayers to be around $167,000. (Again, that’s per inmate.)
The idea is that if they can keep these youths out of trouble and out of jail, not only does that mean a more lawful and promising future for Brooklyn, but it means a little less stress on the wallets of its residents as well.
After-school boxing programs and other like-minded activities for at-risk kids have been offered in similar communities, but many focus on helping youths before they get into trouble.
There are not many programs for kids after they get in trouble, and not many that incorporate a social curriculum, either. That’s what separates Beyond Boxing.
For the first hour each night, participants, aged 16 to 23, will sit in a classroom located in the gym and receive instruction from a specifically crafted social curriculum designed by Neville, based off of his previous experience teaching in the NYC Teaching Fellows Program and at the Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn Heights.
Following the first hour, participants will then change into their athletic garb and receive an hour and a half of physical instruction from professional USA Boxing-registered trainers, who — in addition to coach Ray Cuadrado — all possess experience working with previously incarcerated youth.
There will also be a “Measurement and Assessment Program” to gauge the progress of each participant in a tangible way, based on evaluations from the educator, the trainers, the participants themselves and a visiting social worker.
Beyond Boxing believes this visible representation of progress is what other programs have been missing all along.
“Boxing has incredibly tangible feelings of personal development,” Neville said. “You go from throwing these loopy ugly punches, to all of a sudden you’re moving, it’s straight. You know how to move your feet. So a trainer can say, hey last week we told you to move like this, this week you are doing it!”
In addition to this feedback, Beyond Boxing is also joining forces with USA Boxing to offer each participant in the program a full membership. For teens who previously identified themselves as criminals and gang members, the membership gives them tangible proof of having accomplished something.
But as a nonprofit, funding has to come from somewhere. And in addition to paying the full membership of each participant at this gym, Neville and Dean are also making it a point to pay the monthly rental fee for the gym, as well as the going rate for any trainer involved.
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