By Ashley Babbitt

Guest Blogger, Social Marketing Consultants

This weekend, the South Salt Lake Police Athletics/Activities League (PAL) Pete Suazo Boxing Center, one of South Salt Lake’s nine neighborhood centers, sent four youth to compete in the Adidas National Boxing Tournament in Oxnard, California. This is the first time boxers from South Salt Lake have competed in such a tournament, and the competition was nationally renowned. “Our boxers performed great,” says PAL Boxing Coach Oscar Gomez.  “We, as coaches, were able to learn what we need to work on.”

“Our boxers now see the standard of the hard workouts essential to competing at the National level and have rededicated themselves to this new standard,” says Matt Pena, PAL Boxing Coach.  “It’s a great experience coaching at the PAL–being both a coach and a life mentor. These kids are bringing home so much more than boxing experience, they are bringing home life experiences.”

“The National Tournament showed me discipline through watching a professional trainer and two professional fighters,” says Hugo Hernandez, PAL Boxer.  “I had a wonderful time and hope to go again.” South Salt Lake PAL allows youth opportunities that include academic tutoring, athletics such as boxing, and activities that include urban arts, hip-hop dance, and more.  The staff at the PAL Boxing Center continues to provide activities for youth and give youth new opportunities that they would not have otherwise.

“The PAL Boxing Center helps me with school, gets me prepared to fight in tournaments, and helps us all plan for the future, such as going to college,” says Uriel “Booty” Argumendo, PAL Boxer.  South Salt Lake PAL is a positive youth development organization that utilizes educational, athletic and recreational activities to create trust and understanding between police officers and youth, provide mentoring opportunities to youth, connect youth with strong and positive role models in the community, encourage healthy decision making and self-esteem, and create and promote community partnerships and involvement.

“The PAL Boxing Center inspires me to become a better boxer, to win competitions, helps me relieve stress, learn new things, I get to meet a lot of cool, new people, it helps me with school and the program teaches me discipline,” says Pablo Garcia, PAL Boxer.  “The program shows me how to work hard and to go to college and beyond.”

One goal of the program is to increase academic performance through dedicated staff, volunteers, and mentors.   “Participating at PAL helps me by getting my grades up, by getting healthy, and meeting new people,” says Hugo Hernandez.  Youth participating have to sign a no F’s contract and are not allowed to compete if they have any citizenship issues either at their school or at the center.

Oscar Gomez, PAL Boxing Coach, says, “I enjoy working at the PAL Boxing Center.  The youth have welcomed me as a friend.”  The PAL Boxing Center provides programming for junior high and high school aged youth five days a week, from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., which includes a hot dinner from Utah Food Bank, year-round.  Youth receive academic tutoring, participate in recreational activities (including boxing), and are assigned mentors to support positive social and career development. 

Left to right: Pablo Garcia, Antonio Jimenez, Uriel “Booty” Argunedo,
Hugo Hernandez

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**PAL Boxing Center is a United Way of Salt Lake Community Center in South Salt Lake**