Paula Tutman: Start with this program to begin with — it is a big deal. Then when you get a superstar like Madonna involved, the deal gets even bigger, because now she’s talking about it, she’s tweeting about it, and apparently, she really cares about it.
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PT: Eighteen-year-old Cortez has a dream: To be a champion. His father is his coach at the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program, but notice when you look at that logo, you don’t see a glove. You see a book. Boxing here has become the ‘hook’ to get kids to expand their lives.

Khali Sweeney (Founder, Program Director):  This room here, um, we do a lot of social studies, reading, writing. [Cut to another room] On this side, this is our temporary lunchroom, but it’s mostly math right now. They do a lot of their math in here, and kids do their homework in here. [Edit to the computer room] This is our computer lab. When they first kid here, they have to do Khan Academy, or we have a classical pianist who comes in to work with the kids.”

Cortez Todd: [Working out with a heavy punching bag] This takes up a lot of time, and then it helps you with your school grades, too.

PT: And when Madonna walked in to the gym last night, kids like Cortez were not only surprised, they were excited to see her again. The operative word there? Again.

CT: When Madonna came in, it was a real good experience, because I saw her a couple of times. She likes coming down to the gym and helping out with the program.

KS: The thing about Madonna is, she’s humble. She’s actually humble. I don’t believe she’s doing this for the publicity. I think she genuinely cares because she’s calling us, making contact with us, emailing us when there’s no need to do it. If she wanted publicity, she would have been gone. But she actually cares about the situation. She’s keeping in touch. Her people are keeping in touch.

PT: The boxing and learning program is only seven years old, and having great supporters, including Madonna, has allowed the program to grow far beyond its young, nonprofit years.

PT: I think that’s what really very attractive to so many organizations, and very likely a star like Madonna, is that this boxing thing — and yes, indeed Cortez wants to be a bantam-weight champion — but this boxing thing? That’s the aside to get these kids in to make their lives better. Paula Tutman, Local 4.