PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The City of Philadelphia unveiled its latest plans to keep young people safe from gun violence. Community organizations are also stepping up to give them a fighting chance.
There’s a fight happening in a North Philadelphia building — the good one.
“I never knew I liked boxing until I tried it,” 12-year-old Jamal Abram said.
Twice a week this gym inside the Epiphany Baptist Church bursts with the energy of dozens of young boxers.
“We don’t just want to train you to box, we also train core values,” Guns Down, Gloves Up founder Capt. Nashid Akil said.
Akil, a police captain with the 22nd District, launched the Guns Down, Gloves Up program last summer in the hopes of giving kids ages 8 to 16 an outlet for stress, a place to feel safe and an alternative to picking up a weapon.
“We all have emotions, we all get angry, but what we decide to do after we get angry is what separates someone getting in trouble and not getting in trouble,” Akil said.
The plan was for the law enforcement volunteers to make an impact on these kids, but it turned out to be two-fold.
“I saw a change in my officers,” Akil said. “You know, sometimes we get jaded where we only see them at their worst. Either they are committing a crime, or they are a victim, but I see my cops are seeing their kids and they are invested in their growth and the difference they can make in the world.”
One being Jamal.
“Here, I get to be myself and just be me and learn how to protect myself,” Jamal said, “and learn self-defense.”
He’s been forced to understand the challenges of the city, but on this evening, he’s just focused on the benefits of a good workout.
“Let all your energy out, your frustration, so it’s just fun to be here,” Jamal said.
The Guns Down, Gloves Up program is free, and you don’t have to sign up in advance.