In our community there is so much to be proud of. We have great restaurants, museums, and events but perhaps the best thing we have is our spirit of service.
One police officer is watching out for the kids he serves, most of them Hispanic and Spanish speakers, by getting them off the streets and into the ring. He has the community saying Vamos Tampa Bay.
“Who here remembers how far apart your feet should be when you’re in your boxing stance?” asks Coach Dennis Small.
He’s training kids to fight. In the ring and in life.
“This is so much more than just gloves and rings and belts,” says Small.
When Coach Small isn’t at the gym teaching kids to put ’em up he’s out on the streets serving and protecting with a badge that says City of Tampa Police. It’s all done through the Police Athletic League, a nonprofit that gives lower income and at risk kids, a chance at after school and athletic programs.
“In many instances they’re broken homes. In many instances it’s single parents that are doing their best, working multiple jobs, trying to raise their kids the best way they can,” says Small.
Officer Small and other volunteers on the force are instilling kids with discipline, teaching respect, and giving them a desire to succeed.
“That we could actually forward the partnership of sorts and incentivize them, not just through the training and mentorship that they are receiving through us right now, but that ultimately we create that fusion between athletics and the arenas of academia, so that our kids are well rounded and they feel comfortable in any environment that they find themselves in the future,” says Small.
In their third year, this program is catching on. Tampa Housing Authority encourages their kids to join, Powerhouse Gym and Legends Gym offer their space up for training four times a week, and now other businesses are jumping on board. So are the parents.
“Therein now, not only have you established that relationship with that young kid, but now mom and dad, or their grandmother, or abuela. They have a resource in you,” says Small.
Officer Small’s example and service is what has the community saying Vamos Tampa Bay.