When 17-year-old Isaias won his first boxing match this past winter, he was more than proud — he was elated. He had been training hard, going to the gym twice a day, every single day. He earned this.
Isaias had started going down the wrong path at the age of 10, after discovering his parents were addicts. “Growing up, I thought my grandparents were my parents,” he says. “They adopted me when I was two.”
Living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), he was often susceptible to the pressures of his peers. Using drugs quickly led to trouble with the law and Isaias ended up at the Calgary Young Offenders Centre.
It was there that Isaias connected with a Youth Advocate at CJHS in August 2017.
“He was very determined to stay clean and out of trouble,” the advocate remembers.
YOUTH ADVOCATES AT CJHS
CJHS also employs a Youth Advocate specifically for Indigenous youth, as well as one for youth who have immigrated to Canada.
The advocates provide one-on-one support to youth ages 12-24 who are at risk of or involved in the justice system, with things like: family mediation; crisis resolution; accessing counselling; goal-setting; securing affordable and safe housing; cultural connections; navigating the justice system; finding and maintaining employment and/or further education; and anything else the youth may need to have alternatives to crime.
KEEGAN HELP FUND
Isaias knew he needed a constructive activity that would help him to make a positive change. He fell in love with boxing.
His advocate helped Isaias apply for a grant from CJHS’s Keegan HELP Fund, which provides financial assistance for youth who are connected to Calgary-based youth-serving agencies and organizations, so they can advance their opportunities for education and learning.
Boxing offered Isaias the distraction he needed to successfully complete his probation.
“I’ve never felt so much passion in my life. I wanted to use my mind more, and boxing is a smart sport — a gentleman’s sport,” he says. “It’s not aggressive, it’s respectful. And now I haven’t been in trouble in three years.”