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Boxing Helps Troubled Children In La Crosse Find A Better Path

Good Fight In La Crosse Helps Children Focus On Education, Future Careers

boxing at The Good Fight
Image courtesy of the The Good Fight Community Center

Boxing can be a rough sport. But in La Crosse, it’s being used as a way to help get troubled children on the right path in life.

The Good Fight Community Center started in downtown La Crosse in the summer of 2016.

“There were kids who were sort of missing the mark and sliding through holes. They didn’t exactly fit at other organizations and I wanted an afterschool program that would include all kids that would bring even the kids who were struggling in other afterschool programs,” said founder and executive director Nathaniel Coleman.

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“The Good Fight Community Center looks to help kids who are economically and educationally challenged — it doesn’t matter what color they are — and bring them together in a place that’s safe,” he said.

Coleman grew up in Chicago, went to school in Eau Claire and eventually went into the military. He was homeless until he got a federal government job at Fort McCoy near La Crosse.

As a teenager, Coleman was a successful amateur boxer and he credits a boxing coach at the time with helping keep him out of trouble. He said boxing is good for physical fitness and teaches a toughness that’s needed to get through life.

But the center is about so much more than boxing. There is mentorship, help with school work or looking for a job and a college prep program. The center also recently started a music and art program.

“The tough kid who’s out on the street doing something may not realize he has a talent to play guitar or draw,” Coleman said. “We open up all of these avenues for kids that may not be able to do this because in today’s economic situation, it might be considered something extra to get a music or art lesson.”

The program is open to children ages 10 to 18 years old.

It’s staffed by volunteers like James Campbell. His record was 23-3 as an amateur boxer growing up as a teenager on the East Coast. Now in his 60s, he’s a volunteer boxing coach five days a week at The Good Fight.

“It’s more like a family. There’s always a mentor who will jump in and help students with a problem with homework or if they want to discuss a personal problem,” said Campbell.

Coleman told a story about a connection Campbell made with a 14-year-old student over their love of comic books.

“That’s what success in a community looks like. Finding a place where someone who’s one color and one age and another color and another age can find something ridiculous to talk about and be OK with each other and learn from each other and grow,” Coleman said.

About 200 students have been members in the community center’s first two years, and has helped put students on a path toward higher education, including one who recently stopped in to share his success.

“He wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to go to college and he gave me all the reasons why he couldn’t and now he’s working on an engineering degree,” said Coleman.

“That’s what The Good Fight is all about. Teaching kids to fight the good fight. To find their best selves and apply themselves to that and win,” he said.

The Good Fight has received a lot of community attention. Coleman was chosen as the 2018 La Crosse Martin Luther King Jr. Community Leadership award recipient.