Business Writing students aid area nonprofit

Poughkeepsie, NY—Right hook. Left hook. One, two, punch. Exhaustion was beginning to kick in, but he managed to make one last strike. The crowd fell silent as the referee began to count to ten. Then, he heard it. The bell, the sound that he had yet again beat the odds.

Luis Del Valle, 24, has been beating the odds since he was a teenager. Moving to Newburgh at the age of 14, Del Valle learned to dodge the violence on the gang-ridden streets of his neighborhood. Today, Del Valle is a North American Boxing Federation champion and continues to surprise crowds by taking out opponents formerly dubbed “unbeatable.”

Newburgh is home to one of the highest incidences of youth gang violence—“gang members with national affiliations outnumber the city’s police by a ratio of three to one,” according to the New York Times. Newburgh also has a crime rate of 1,600 crimes per 100,000 residents, the highest in the state and a rate of 406% higher than the national average.

Because Del Valle focused on training, he escaped a life to which many of Newburgh’s current youth fall victim. Del Valle owes his survival and success to Ray Rivera’s Newburgh Boxing Club (NBC), a decade-old non-profit organization serving as a safe haven for teenagers, who are faced with drugs and violence on the streets and, for many, even danger and abuse at home. At NBC, teens build positive relationships with their peers while participating in vigorous boxing training and learn the value of self-discipline, commitment, and self-respect. Before hitting the gym, however, members are expected to do their homework. NBC requires that its members maintain a GPA of at least 2.0 and remain enrolled in school. Rivera constantly reminds the teens under his care: “You don’t pass; you don’t box.”

However, after ten years, Rivera can no longer support NBC’s youth members out of his own pocket. NBC had to leave its original location due to lack of funds and is now struggling to set up a new place in Newburgh.

From renovations to day-to-day operating costs, this sanctuary-off-the streets program cannot possibly be supported financially by one person alone. Upon reading about NBC’s plight in the Poughkeepsie Journal last year, students at Marist College stepped in to support Ray Rivera in his noble mission. Marist students have raised money to supply the flooring for NBC’s new facility. Immediate renovations in the amount of $5,000 are needed to set up the gym according to building codes and maintain a computer lab for after-school learning.

Research shows that a boxing program of this kind is most effective in reaching high-risk teens, which is why similar programs have been established by police departments in other states. Marist’s Business Writing class is continuing with the effort by writing grant proposals to obtain funding to sustain the youth program through the year and beyond. The Marist volunteers are appealing to their peers at other local colleges to join in this community effort. Club-run fundraisers are needed this semester as well as volunteer efforts to spread awareness among local businesses and regional organizations.

The Newburgh Boxing Club is a 501(c)(3) non-for-profit organization. Marist senior and Newburgh resident Gloria Reyes is serving as Executive Secretary to help resume the youth program. Once NBC has regained its footing, there will be opportunities for volunteers to tutor NBC student-members.

For ten years the Newburgh Boxing Club served as a sanctuary off the streets for Newburgh youth. With help from the college community, NBC can open its protective doors once again to high-risk teens. Read more about the Newburgh Boxing Club at http://newburghboxingclub.com/index/index.asp

For more information, please contact Gloria Reyes at gloria.reyes1@marist.edu.

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