A Newtownabbey boxing club which is supporting young people to achieve their potential has received a substantial funding boost from the Big Lottery Fund.
Monkstown Boxing Club has recently been awarded £599,849 from the Fund’s Empowering Young People programme.
Their #INYOURCORNER project is working with young people aged 11-24 who are struggling with education and who may be likely to be involved in risk-taking behaviour.
Over five years the project is supporting young people from the Monkstown, Rathcoole, Rathfern, Ballyduff, New Mossley and Whiteabbey areas, with the new funding being used to help with their education, to improve their health and well-being, and to increase their employment prospects.
Courtney Cooper, 16, from Monkstown, says she has turned her life around with help from the boxing club.
Courtney was eight years old and living with her family in Monkstown, when her older brother started on a downward spiral after taking drugs. At that age she didn’t understand his behaviour.
She said: “For me, it always seemed like my parents were giving my brother more attention and I was just there in the background. Even when he moved out they still had to worry about him more than me. So I thought if he’s getting on like that then so can I.
“My attitude was really bad. I didn’t care about school, it didn’t seem important. I might have looked tough on the outside but I was anxious on the inside and I felt alone. I bottled my feelings up for a long time.
“I was in second year when I decided to join the afterschool programme at Monkstown Boxing Club – it looked more interesting than my regular homework club. I was excited to go every day and slowly my bad attitude started getting better. I got help doing my homework and I’d have fun playing games or doing some boxing, which was great for letting go of any stress I was feeling. No matter what mood I entered the club, I always left it feeling better.”
Courtney started working harder at school, seeing the importance of getting good exam results, and with help revising at the club she achieved high scores in her GCSE exams in August.
She now volunteers as a young leader at the Club: “I help the younger kids with their homework and run activities for them. It’s helped me mature because I know they are looking at my behaviour and I need to be a role model for them. Monkstown Boxing Club has made such a massive impact on my life. Being part of the club has made me more confident, helped me achieve, and always given me someone to talk to.”