Opinion: It’s time to teach our youth nonviolence

Christopher Alexis, 16, left, of Stratford, hits the heavy bag along with fellow boxers at the Chick Rosnick Boxing Club in Stratford, Conn. on Monday, August 16, 2021.

Christopher Alexis, 16, left, of Stratford, hits the heavy bag along with fellow boxers at the Chick Rosnick Boxing Club in Stratford, Conn. on Monday, August 16, 2021.

Brian A. Pounds/Hearst Connecticut Media

Back-to-school season heralds a whirlwind of activities — homework, exams, sports, fundraisers, extracurriculars — but frighteningly, it also brings with it the specter of school shootings. We in Connecticut are still haunted by the tragedy of Sandy Hook a decade ago. Just last May, we faced another incidence of violence in our own backyard, when a Fairfield Prep student was killed at a house party in Shelton.

Perhaps it's not surprising that our society is rife with violence when our children are surrounded by it in pop culture: on television, in movies, in violent video games. Our youngest adults, who are just now legally old enough to buy a first drink, were raised on 9/11 with their mother’s milk. And even though we’re the third-smallest state, Connecticut is by no means exempt from either the heroin epidemic or the gang culture that plagues the nation. National gangs like the Latin Kings operate here, as do smaller local gangs like 20 Luv, and others, like the New York City-based Bloods, are seeping over our border.

It's time to put an end to youth violence in Connecticut. That can only be accomplished if we actively teach our most vulnerable and high-risk youth the tools to reject violence.

That’s where the Chick Rosnick Boxing Club, Inc., comes in. We are a Stratford-based, registered nonprofit whose mission is to teach youth in Stratford and the surrounding towns the skills and tools to manage lifelong situations and challenges that might otherwise result in violent altercations. We provide a nurturing, safe environment overseen by trained mentors. The values we instill — self-discipline, respect, good character, relationship building, goal setting — form a skill set necessary to become positive, productive and responsible citizens of the community.

Our “Guns Down, Gloves Up” approach is built on intentional, vetted strategies and intervention practices. Studies repeatedly show that boxing is the best sport to reduce gang culture, as boxing is a proven means to manage anger and aggression and channel energy in a constructive way.

This type of early action helps reduce the risk of young people getting involved in violent lifestyles; it empowers them to make the right choices and deglamorizes the lifestyle of crime, prisons, gangs, and weapons.

Housed in a registered gym, we teach the disciplines of boxing, martial arts and physical fitness to children aged 3 to young adult. Our youngest participants learn motor skills, coordination and listening skills. Our teens receive a wide variety of life-skill enrichment programs, from job-seeking to self-defense. In fact, we welcome female staff members from juvenile detention centers to teach them self-confidence and self-defense as deterrents to getting hurt on the job. We provide scholarships and financial aid for our programs. We are thrilled to take our customized presentations offsite, and deliver them directly to schools throughout the region.

All this goes hand in hand with the coaching of boxing. Our participants have gone on to win local, state and even national titles.

The Chick Rosnick Boxing Club was created in memory of Hyman “Chick” Rosnick, a lifelong boxing enthusiast, five-sport athlete, coach and educator. To fund our facility and programming, we are holding our second annual Black Tie Amateur Boxing Dinner Show on Saturday, Oct. 1, at Vazzano’s Four Seasons in Stratford. Some of the best amateur male and female athletes from the East Coast will participate. Over 500 people attended last year’s show, and the proceeds went to critical renovations and reconstruction as well as new equipment and outreach.

Tickets are $65 for dinner and the show, and $25 for the show only. For more information and to purchase tickets, email info@chickrosnickboxingclub.com. To donate or become a sponsor, please email hal@millerandrosnick.com. 

The Chick Rosnick Boxing Club, Inc., is a registered 501(c)3 organization dedicated to teaching the art of boxing to boys and girls in the Stratford area and beyond. Its 4,000 square-foot registered facility is located at 360 Sniffens Lane, Stratford, CT. For more information visit www.chickrosnickboxingclub.com