When Newton resident Connie Toroser first learned of a youth program at her local boxing club, she didn’t hesitate to sign her son Cristian up. In addition to giving Cristian more time with his friends after school, Toroser said the classes have another draw: They are instructed by Newton police officers.
“I like these efforts for the police to be part of the community and not just these people that you’re supposed to be afraid of,” Toroser said. “I think that’s really important, and … it’d be great if there were more of those opportunities.”
The free boxing program—which began on Oct. 19, 2022 in partnership with the Newton Police Department (NPD)—is held at the Nonantum Boxing Club and welcomes participants ages 10 to 17 every Wednesday. The program will run according to the school calendar and is currently open for the second semester of the academic year, according to Marc Gargaro, Nonantum Boxing Club owner and coach.
The classes follow a loose structure so as to accommodate and encourage newer members who may be dropping into the sessions, according Gargaro.
“We kind of structured it as ‘When you get here, you gotta do certain tasks. You gotta jump rope, you gotta shadowbox,’” Gargaro said. “Then once everybody’s there and everybody feels like they did it, like the officers will take them, and they’ll run them through some programs.”
The program is a way to encourage kids to exercise while also fostering a more compassionate relationship between police officers and community youth, Gargaro said.
“I know growing up, if an officer knows a youth, he’s less likely to bust him. He’s more likely to talk to him and less likely to do anything stupid,” Gargaro said. “If the youth knows the officer, he’s less likely to screw up, and, you know, because he knows him, he’s not gonna want to screw up, you know what I mean? So it’s a great relationship for the both [of them].”
For Toroser, the prospect of introducing Cristian to a tighter-knit relationship between Newton residents and its law enforcement was a major reason for initially getting involved in the program.
“They actually are part of the community, you know … but like, how do you get that view of them, especially to kids that are hearing a lot of negative things about the police?” Toroser said. “And so, yeah, that was definitely part of the draw.”
Cristian Toroser, who is a student at F.A. Day Middle School in Newtonville, said the class gave him a different perspective on police officers.
“I learned that … you’d think that police would be mean and trying to catch people that are being bad, but they’re a lot nicer than they seem,” he said.
Moving forward, the Nonantum Boxing Club and NPD hope to raise money to continue the program and are in the beginning stages of planning fundraising initiatives.
“We haven’t gotten that far, as far as fundraising, but we’re gonna need it,” Gargaro said. “I think the bigger the program gets, we’re gonna need some kind of income coming—supplies, gloves don’t last forever.”
In the meantime, the program is currently in full swing and will continue through the end of the school year, according to Gargaro.
“If you ever come in on a Wednesday afternoon, the place is packed, and it’s pumping, and it looks like a gym you would see out of one of the old 1950s movies,” Gargaro said. “It’s just the kids running around everywhere and kids working, and that’s how it should be.”