TAMPA, Fla. — One by one, the teenagers slid through the ropes of a Tampa boxing ring. They each took some swings at a police officer. And everyone was having a good time.
“All we’re trying to do is build confidence in these kids and keep them busy, keep them off the streets,” says Officer Azariah Israel, urging his junior fighters to train hard.
The free program for boys and girls ages 8 to 17 at Powerhouse Gym is a partnership between Tampa’s Police Athletic League and the Tampa Housing Authority.
The 10-week boxing lesson is not just a way to lace up the gloves and grow some self-esteem, it also helps the kids forge a relationship with officers who may not have the best relationship with police.
It also forges a relationship with kids who don’t always have the best relationship with police.
Officer Israel grew up in a tough Jacksonville neighborhood. He knows firsthand how important it is to connect with the community in a positive way.
“We’ve already had a lot of kids come up to us after practice and say, ‘Coach, that was good!’ They thank us,” said Ofc. Israel.
For more information on the free boxing program, which also includes transportation and a snack, visit www.paltampa.org.