TRENTON — Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and New Jersey State Athletic Control Board (SACB) Commissioner Larry Hazzard Sr. today announced the selection of a Trenton boxing gym and mentoring program to receive grant funding to operate an amateur boxing program for youth in the city, and funding to restart a youth boxing program in Atlantic City previously funded by the Office.
The Ike Williams Boxing Academy in Trenton will receive $65,000 to launch a program to provide participants with boxing knowledge, physical fitness training, and nutrition, wellness, and life skills instruction. The yearlong program is expected to reach 20 youth who will attend sessions three days per week, each lasting three hours.
Another $65,000 grant is being provided to the Atlantic City Police Athletic League (AC PAL) to revive a youth boxing program that had started in July 2019 with support from the Attorney General’s Office but was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Offering safe places for youth to enrich their physical fitness, minds, and well-being allows them to better their futures,” said Attorney General Platkin. “The programs we are announcing funding for today transcend boxing and can impact far beyond the ring. I’m proud to support our youth and their communities through these initiatives.”
“The Ike Williams program was selected after several Trenton police officers, former Department of Corrections officers, and firefighters committed to participating in that program, offering the potential for positive interactions between young participants and first responders in a non-threatening environment, which could go far in changing preconceptions, strengthening police-community relations and improving public safety in the city of Trenton,” said State Athletic Control Board Commissioner Larry Hazzard, Sr.
The 20 participants in the Ike Williams program are expected to actively participate in boxing fitness training and attend monthly workshops and field trips. The monthly life skills workshops will be open to program participants and their family members and area residents, meaning those seminars will benefit the larger community.
The grant recipients in Trenton also highlighted how participants will interact regularly with first responders and gain a better understanding of them, their work, their backgrounds, and possible future career paths.
Ike Williams, Boxing Academy operator, expects the vast majority of participants will see an array of benefits from the overall experience, improving their interactive skills, physical fitness, awareness of different career options, and understanding of healthy eating habits. The program aims to keep youth out of the criminal justice system and reduce the recidivism of those with prior contact with it.
The new Trenton program is also expected to help students achieve academic success. Participants will provide a copy of their school report card to the program facilitator, who will maintain regular contact with school personnel should the participant have issues with classwork or behavior. Assessments will also be conducted regularly to identify participants’ needs and help direct them to services to assist them.
In Atlantic City, AC PAL used the previous round of funding in 2019 to launch an after-school boxing program to serve youth from the city between the ages of 11 and 15, to build self-esteem, provide a safe space to enjoy positive activities and propel participants toward success.
With this latest round of funding, the yearlong program operated out of the AC PAL Recreation Facility will be providing daily weekday activities from 3 to 6:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for 20 youth — some referred by schools, community-based organizations, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, Youth Services Commission and the courts.
In addition to being trained in physical fitness and learning the business aspect of boxing, participants are expected to acquire life skills, attend career development workshops, help host an amateur boxing exhibition, and participate in amateur boxing events.
The programs being funded today, both in Trenton and Atlantic City, will enroll participants between the ages of 11 and 18 who reside and attend school in disadvantaged and high-crime neighborhoods, where they are exposed to negative influences that can lead to delinquency and gang involvement. The programs will offer healthy and safe alternatives and mentorship during after-school hours.