By Kathie Klunder
Recently in Gambell, AK on St. Lawrence Island, 35 miles off the coast of Russia, I (Robert McCoy) started a boxing team. I have been boxing since 2001 and it has always been a dream of mine to start my own boxing team and eventually open up my own gym. I came to Gambell in May 2011 and spent 2 months here. One of the problems I noticed was overexposure of negative influences to the youth, due to lack of entertainment or activities. Because my family, the Apangalooks from my mom’s side, originates from here, I was pressed to try and make a change and provide a positive influence for our youth and our future.
I returned to Gambell in November 2011 with plans of making an impact. My first week back I began working as a subsitute teacher at the Hugo T. Apatiki Elementary/John Apangalook Memorial High School. After about a month of subbing, I landed a full time position at the Kawerak Head Start. In December, I began wondering if this place where my ancestors come from could be where I can pursue my dream. So I started asking and conversing with the people in the village whom are highly respected and great leaders about my plans and my dreams. All were supportive of my plans to make an impact with our youth through boxing as long as it was done so with the right guidance and encouragement.
I began my process of starting the first Alaskan rural boxing team by collecting letters of recommendation from three highly respected members of the community. I then wrote a letter myself, explaining my plans and goals. After all letters were in order, I started collecting signatures from the community who supported my proposal and I gathered six pages full! I brought all of my paperwork to the school and requested permission to use the school facilities for our practices. Since most of the school staff, including both the principal and the assistant principal, also supported my proposal, I had no problem getting approved. With help from Deb Forkner(the school principal) and Kathy Klunder(the schools SFA facilitator) I was able to acquire a grant through a program called 21st Century. 21st Century is an amazing program which supports after school programs. With the grant comes responsibilities of a required 20 min of reading and response which we do together at the end of practice. I then made plans for our first meeting and our first practice.
Every week I do lesson plans for upcoming practices to be prepared. During and after practices I track every students progress and try to get some one-on-one time with each student. I explained to my students that we were not only going to be learning boxing, but along with it we would also be learning self control, self discipline, history, nutritional information, and most of all, to have fun together. I explained that I started this program to redirect them from getting into trouble and to build confidence in themselves to be great leaders in the community which they all have potential to be.
With reality setting in after our first official meeting, I realized all the responsibilities I brought on. I have many plans for our unique boxing team and I am determined not to let them down. I also told them we would have to work for everything that we receive and nothing would go unearned. All of my students so far, into our third week, have shown a great deal of interest with over 15 members. With all the support from the community and my students, it has brought a great deal of optimism to our boxing team’s future and we cannot help but to be filled with excitement and happiness. I, without a doubt, believe that with some hard work, dedication, teamwork and persistance, the sky is the limit for our “Sivuqaq Sweet Science” boxers.
The only thing our team lacks so far is funding which we are seeking through donations and fundraising. We are having our first fundraising event on Sunday February 19 through a spaghetti feed. I made the first donation by supplying all the food necessary to have our spaghetti feed. I informed my students that we were gonna have to work to earn our equipment and gear as it was not already all available for us. All my students are more then willing to help with fundraising because they understand that we are gonna have to earn all our equipment required for experience and growth in boxing.
I would love to thank the great community of Gambell (my new home) for helping me make my dreams come true and I encourage all not to give up on their dreams.
“The boxing program has inspired me to try harder in life and has given me something to look forward to here in Gambell.”
– Anthony Slwooko- age 15
“Coach Robert has inspired me to do better at school and at home.”
- Ben Apangalook – age 13
“Boxing is fun and healthy, Robert is a good coach and he influences me to be good in school.”
- Shannon Apassingok – age 11
“This boxing program has improved myself and helped me with my self control.”
- Danny Aningayou – age 18