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Boxing program at St. Barnabas Hospital turning around lives of Bronx youth

Year-round boxing program turning around lives of Bronx youth
Year-round boxing program turning around lives of Bronx youth 02:00

NEW YORK - A boxing program in the Bronx is changing the lives of teenagers and young adults in the borough in an unexpected location in Fordham.

"The corner of your eyes, it blinks out. Everything is focused," said Xavier Torres. 

It's taken years for Torres, 24, to find a vision this clear.

"Everything went full circle," he said.

His safe haven is a boxing gym inside St. Barnabas Hospital. The unassuming location is giving him a reset on life.

"My mom got evicted twice in the same year and she was the only income," said Torres. "What I did was just drop out of high school, just made a sacrifice."

Torres is part of the new, year-round boxing program designed to help at-risk youth stay off the streets during the evening hours. 

"I started getting more excited with myself. More excited for my future," he said.

"If they don't find community here, then they'll find community elsewhere," said Amanda Martinez, a community coordinator at SBH Health System.

The program is a result of St. Barnabas treating high rates of young victims from street violence and the nonprofit BRAG wanting to help these victims get their lives back on track.

"Trauma wears in the face of anybody," said Joel Castillo, head instructor for the program.

Castillo knows what it's like to wear his students' gloves.

"I've been through the everything you've been through. I've been in the same hospital bed. I used to be a patient here at St. Barnabas Hospital every time I got stabbed, shot, whatever, I used to come here," said Castillo.

Castillo explains he and his students dealt with adversity from the start of their lives.

"When you go through so much trauma in your life and you have so much build-up, boxing is the perfect thing to get your mind right," said Castillo.

Castillo now uses what he knows to empower young men and youth to find the right path through their own strength and abilities.

"We can't save them all, you know, but we're trying. They just gotta wanna save themselves," said Castillo.

"You just got to get up. This is why God gave you two arms, two feet, so whenever you walk with it, talk with it, always be positive," said Torres.

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