For the 4th year, inner city youngsters from Toledo, Ohio have been in Starke County helping with a program called CROPS, which is an acronym for Center for Rural Outreach and Public Services. CROPS was begun in 2004 by Beverly Santicola, a professional grantwriter, and her mother, Ardella Paulsen.
“We bring inner city kids to the country to work alongside rural kids to revitalize rural America,” said Santicola. “We’ve taken the program to Hawaii and to San Antonio, Texas, and we’re now taking it to Dallas and to other communities. Of course, my heart is in San Pierre. Harry Cummins is the coach of the International Boxing Club and he started bringing the kids here about four years ago.”
“We have a very unique program,” said Cummins. “It’s one of a kind in the United States. We don’t charge the kids to come to our gym, but it’s mandatory that you have to go into the classrooms and there are tutors there to assist them with their school work. We have a vocational training center where we’re teaching kids carpentry, electrical and plumbing. We’re very big in education. We’re very big in education. We have a saying. It’s great to have a champion in the boxing ring, but it’s more important to have an e champion in life.”
One of the youngsters here this week is Travon Mathis and he was asked how he became involved.
“I was running around with some bad influences I guess you could say and the goal was to be the biggest and baddest on the street. So, when I heard about the Boxing Club in Toledo, I started looking around for one that I could just go into and learn how to fight better. When I got into the Club and I got inside of it, it was such a turn around. I just stuck with it and kept going far and now I’m here,” said Mathis.
A screenwriter from Hollywood was also in Starke County following the youngsters around as they participated in the program. The participants are leaving for Toledo today.