Nightly News   |  March 08, 2013

Boxing gym a bright spot for Detroit teens

A coach on the east side of Detroit is offering kids a place to work out, study and find community in a bleak area of the city that’s seen great hardship. NBC’s Chelsea Clinton reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> "making a difference." brought to you by pfizer.

>> final here tonight, our "making a difference" from detroit , a city that knows about survival in hard times . for young people , there are so many things that can can go wrong. but to avoid them there is a man fighting to make a difference. his story and their story tonight from chelsea clinton .

>> detroit 's east side . a shell of the neighborhood coach sweeney knew as a boy.

>> this was a middle class neighborhood. this was the american dream right here. look at this stuff like this new.

>> reporter: it looks post-apocalypt post-apocalyptic.

>> if you post a tank right here in the middle of the street, you would think it was a war zone .

>> reporter: today detroit is one of america's ten most violent cities. so coach cally opened the downtown boxing gym. here kids learn discipline, confidence and the rewards of hard work.

>> it took me a long time to get good at everything. at least two weeks.

>> reporter: at least two weeks. two weeks is a long time?

>> that's a long time.

>> reporter: for the last three years, this has been ka'deem anderson's second home.

>> when i was younger, i used to get in a lot of fights.

>> reporter: the 15-year-old is different now, no longer tempted to stray into trouble.

>> i want to thank khalid from the bottom of my heart. i'm serious. when you've got somebody in your life that's willing to help your children that they don't even know, like he helped my baby.

>> reporter: because coach cowly got that same help 47 years ago. just a baby, he was taken in by strangers.

>> saved me. of course -- they saved me. my life would be nowhere near how it is now. i know i would have had it a lot rougher.

>> reporter: the gym makes sure kids get nutritious food. without it, seven of the ten kids we saw wouldn't get enough to eat. warm coats donated by myers super store , and through regular community service , the kids learn you get what you give.

>> if you go to a place, you need to be pulled back to the right path.

>> reporter: the coach believes in tough love.

>> you make a mistake in the ring, you end up on the floor. you make a mistake now, you end up on the floor.

>> reporter: the gym operates under one golden rule .

>> i think you've got homework.

>> reporter: the kids must hit the school books before anything else. and the tutoring is paying off with a 100% high school graduation rate.

>> went to college, trained, got a job. everything went well for me.

>> reporter: coach cowly wants nothing less for his kids.

>> boxing is small compared to the big picture . the big picture is education.

>> reporter: to give everyone a fighting chance . chelsea clinton , nbc news, detroit michigan .