For nearly five years now, the U.S.V.I. Boxing Federation’s gym at Paul M. Pearson Gardens public housing has offered the neighborhood’s youth an alternative to the street, especially in the doldrums of late afternoon and early evening—when opportunities for trouble abound.
Now it offers even more, says Boxing Federation President Jose Rosario, who announced recently that two more laptop computers have been added to the computer lab that now complements the boxing gym.
That’s in addition to the two personal computers that have been in operation there for nearly a month—all donated by Choice Communications.
Calling the lab the “Choice Internet Ring,” Rosario says it’s the kind of business/community partnership that is needed more than ever as street crime and violence are on the rise. He commended the volunteer tutor and the several Choice employees who volunteer several hours each week to supervise.
During a recent visit to the boxing center, Rosario pointed to two boys busy on the computers in the corner of the center.
“If they are in here,” he said, motioning to the boys, “they are not out there,” he added, pointing to the darkening streets outside.
“This is opening their minds,” he said. “Most of these kids don’t have these kinds of things at home.”
Steamy and crowded, the small bright room of the center hopped with activity as fists smacked bags, ropes slapped floors, and two young men bobbed and weaved in the ring as evening descended.
“A lot of kids are not in the gym, per se, but like to be around all the action,” said Julian Jackson Jr., who works as a technician for Choice. It was Jackson who helped Choice General Manager John Champagne and Jackson’s famous ex-pro-boxer father, Julian Jackson Sr., establish the internet ring at the boxing center.
With his father in the distance coaching a boxer, the younger Jackson waxed philosophical about the potential of the computer lab.
“My dad wanted to bring mind, body and soul into this place,” he said, still sweating from a workout. “Choice wanted to handle the mind part.”
As he spoke, 14-year-old Kwame Forbes and 8-year-old Akeel Charleswell worked on homework on the two PCs amid the din of the gym. Jackson said many teens use the computers to write essays for class.
“A lot of kids can’t travel or see the world,” said Jackson, a worldly young man who enjoyed a brief career as a top amateur boxer. Two of his brothers, Julius and John, went pro.
“The Internet is their ticket off the island,” he said.
Jorrel Jackson, 17, a senior at Charlotte Amalie High School, said he wants to major in engineering in college and has used the computers at the boxing center to research his future field. His only concern with the center, he said, was that kids from other neighborhoods often can’t cross onto Pearson Gardens’ turf for fear of gangs.
As young aspiring boxers moved from station to station and in or out of the ring, Rosario said he hopes that other boxing centers with computer labs will open in other neighborhoods on all the Virgin Islands with partnerships like the one offered by Choice.
Even though the gym has produced several professionals and a slew of top amateurs, he said there are more important things than boxing.
“Not every kid who comes to the boxing center is going to become a boxer,” he said. “Grades come first. “That’s why we wanted to have the computers,” he said.
“We’re not looking for fighters. We’re trying to make young men and women for the future. We’re taking them off the street.”