She took the trouble to fight as a child. Now the boxing program helps students stay on the right path.


"I had a childhood with a fair share of boats and drops. We coped with poverty, drug addiction in the household, I was upset about a lot of things," he said.

When Cannon was 12 years old, he had to be subject to court orders for anger management after he was arrested for a fight.

"I did not have the skill or skills to quit a fight and I let the anger control me," he said.

When Cannon took up competitive boxing at college, he found an exit to channel his energy.

"I did not know what anger felt on the way up and boxing forced me to face it," said Cannon, now 31.

He became a Collegiate national boxing champion in 2009 before the injuries made him take a break from the ring. After graduating, Cannon spent two years with Teach for America, feels passionate about addressing the issue of inequality in education.

In 2012, with a postgraduate diploma in secondary education, Cannon moved to Chicago and helped establish a charter school in the troubled western side of the city.

His students lived in violent neighborhoods, and Cannon knew they would benefit from a post-secondary education program that gave them a safe place for learning and development.

"There is a lot of violence in the community," said Cannon. "When violence is in your mind constantly, you can not just turn it off when you go to school, it affects what you do, it affects how you interact with people and your level of comfort wherever you are."

While the murder rate in Chicago is declining in recent years, the city's manslaughter rate has surpassed both New York and Los Angeles, the two largest cities in America, according to FBI figures. Just this year, more than 1,000 people were killed in Chicago.

Cannon has decided to launch a small boxing club at school.

"Children would come to the club believing they would learn how to fight, but instead they learned how to control these impulses – and they did better at school," he said.

He found that students' grades, behavior and grades improved as a result of their participation. He knew he was on something, and laid the foundation for what is now his nonprofit program, The Block.

"When you have the unconditional acceptance we offer, when you have the support we give, you no longer go out and you are struggling on the streets," said Cannon.

Young boxers are thinking outside the ring

His organization, now in three schools, is using boxing as a hook to take children to the door and then provides them with guidance and guidance, finally setting the foundation for success.

"We push them academically, we help them socially and we are a resource for them in all other areas of their lives," said Cannon.

From 2016, the co-ed program has helped more than 300 students. The group has maintained a 100% graduation rate from high school and a 100% college admission rate among applicants applying.

CNN's Laura Klairmont spoke to Cannon about his work. Below is a version of their conversation.

CNN: How did you personally help the boxing sport?

Jamyle Cannon: It did not take long for me to get angry. I struggle a lot. There is a push to fight that you can not pray long, you can not break it away. It is something that exists. And it is something that needs to be recognized and addressed. It's easy to see how I could stay on a devastating route if I kept it. I needed a way out of this feeling I had.

CNN Hero Jamyle Cannon

I went to the boxing gym and the sport really made sense to me. As I got deeper into the sport, it made me appreciate my relationship with anger. You can not get into a boxing ring and get angry and be successful. One of the most important things I had to learn was that I had to stay nice and relaxed. I had to check my wrath. To control my anger, I had to begin to recognize what anger feels. Instead of going and acting for the anger I had, taking it to another person, I had to learn how to process this internally. And I'm learning how to stay at this moment by learning how to let things happen in the past so I can keep going, I think that's how I came to make my own emotions so I can be successful no matter what how uncomfortable I am.

CNN: What is the importance of accepting children in the program regardless of their grades or behavior?

Cannon: If you are a child who does not have the grades or behavior to engage in school sports, there is nowhere to go. There is nowhere to push you to the best of your own or without adults in your corner. You are not in anyone's team. But there are many people in the streets who will say, "Come with us and we will accept you as you are." And once you have this piece of acceptance, you are willing to do anything to keep it.

If they do not find acceptance here, they will find acceptance on the road. Many of our students are not fit to do things they know will do better. There is a reason why kids want to play sports – because they know it's something positive to do. But we often turn them around and tell them they can not do it because they do not meet the requirements. They are (simply) repelled and allowed to take care of themselves and find their own shops – and these stores are often devastating.

So one of the things I knew I had to do was find a way to bring these young people to the umbrella. If you are a Chicago student and are interested in boxing, you can come to our program. We are not going to check history or behavioral control to make sure you are fit for our program. We want you if you want to be here.

CNN: How do you use boxing to help these kids in all aspects of their lives?

Cannon: We use the sport to teach children how to fight for their own success. The boxing section is an indispensable hook to get the kids to get to the maximum.

Work is always first. There is compulsory schooling. We have one-on-one teaching. There are a few days where a child will come and just do the job all the time. They just need a place to do their job.

We go to college travel so that they can take their feet at college campuses and see what the college life is. We also make some trips around the city. We have children in Bloc who have not been in the center of the city despite having lived in Chicago all their lives or who have never seen the lake or went to football, went to a farmer's market. So, we extend the horizons to our children and expose them to how great the city can be.

The impact was unbelievable. Their grades go up. They are not left out of trouble at school. They will not be captured or arrested again if they have been arrested beforehand. They are high school graduates. They are admitted to college. And they are happier. Most children are looking for a safe place to be the best version of themselves.

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