SAN ANTONIO – The Advocates Youth Boxing Program offers children who live on the West Side a chance to learn respect, gain self esteem and learn about discipline.
Jason Mata runs the program located behind a home on the corner of Buena Vista and North Jacinto.
The program helps train children at the indoor and outdoor gym.
"They have more self esteem. They feel more confident. They don't feel like I can't do this, I can't do that," Marie Martinez, a mother of a child who attends the program, said.
Martinez not only brings her children but volunteers too.
"A lot of these other places we can't afford, but here you can," Martinez said.
Martinez said the crime in the community does not seem to be going down.
"There's been stabbings. There's been people drinking at the corner of the house, it's really bad. And having this here helps the kids get away from all of that. It's a safe haven," Martinez said.
Many of the children, including Sebastian Sanchez, have developed a passion for boxing.
"It helps bring kids out of a bad place," Sanchez said.
By the age of 12, Sanchez said he had joined a neighborhood gang.
"Day by day, I got beat up, hurt, they really did hurt me mentally. I have PTSD," Sanchez said.
But Sanchez wanted to protect his family.
"I got into a fight for my family. I beat up people. Drugs just came and went, came and went," Sanchez said.
After hitting rock bottom and going to the Juvenile Detention Center, his program officer told him about the program, and it changed his life forever.
According to Mata, the boxing program started in 1999. It is supported by a non-profit called The Advocates Social Services.
To join the boxing program, members are asked for a $20 monthly donation, but it's not required to participate.