Within Duval County Public Schools there is zero tolerance when it comes to fighting. The second you throw a punch or end up in a fight, whether the student is the aggressor or not, they are suspended. Some of Jacksonville’s students take out their frustrations and anger in the boxing ring at the Jacksonville Police Athletic League. Officer Tom Waarum has been with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for nearly 20 years. He has been with JaxPAL for more than a decade. He is the coordinator of the amateur boxing program and works with four other instructors on teaching the children proper boxing techniques, and so much more. It is one of several sports programs by JaxPAL to help keep children out of trouble and give them an outlet. Officer Waarum says the boxing program is year round and open to both girls and boys. The children work inside a professional-sized ring for three minute rounds.
The ring, located at the JaxPAL location on the Northside, sits right off of Moncrief Road. It is an area of town that has seen its share of murders, robberies and assaults. Many people on that side of town do not trust the police. JaxPAL works with children in the community to change that perception. Children, some inner city youth, some from other parts of Jacksonville dedicate two hours a day, four days a week to the sport of boxing. They prepare for a chance to box in the program’s showcases throughout the year.
JaxPAL recently wrapped up a showcase where they honored boxer Julian Jackson and others who contributed to the boxing community in Jacksonville. Former boxer Larry Holmes donated the ring those children use. The second you walk into the ring, you can feel its history, and the energy from the children and others who have poured sweat and blood into those three minute rounds.
Boxing not only teaches a person to defend themselves, but it also teaches discipline. Going to public school in Jacksonville, sometimes those children need both. According to Action News Jax, an alarming number of guns have been brought on campus so far this school year. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says high schoolers were behind a shooting near Terry Parker High school in February. Just a few weeks before that, JSO says teens were involved in a shooting outside the Jacksonville Landing. One of the teens died, another was shot, but not badly hurt. Officer Waarum believes the lives of all these children matter. He works all year round to get more of Jacksonville’s children to put the guns down and give them another option, so they know they do not have to turn to violence.