Changing Lives, One Round at a Time

It was 5:30 a.m. in Chicago on a warm summer day. Ray* was looking for an outlet for his anger after learning his friend had been shot. He believed he had two options.

“Ray decided he wanted to get to the gym rather than retaliate. I know that a life was saved that day — whether it was the life Ray wanted to take or his own,” said volunteer coach, Rita Figueroa. “That morning boxing replaced all the ‘bad’ that he was ever involved in.”

That morning, Rita met Ray at Sam Colonna Boxing to help him with some pad and bag work. This early session wasn’t part of her regular routine of getting ready for work as a service manager for AT&T, but she knew that being there would make a world of difference to Ray.

Today, Ray is 3–0 as an amateur boxer and is in the semifinals of the Chicago Golden Gloves.

Rita, a retired professional boxer, spent more than 500 hours volunteer coaching at Sam Colonna Boxing in 2015. She’s there multiple times a week, from early in the morning to late into the night and on weekends “encouraging and enforcing” her students to get their cardio, sparring, pad and bag work done right.

Rita Figueroa training a student at Sam Colonna Boxing.

“Once boxing is a part of you, it’s in you,” Rita said. “I was forced into retirement due to an injury, but I knew I still had contributions to make.”

Those contributions include helping young men like Ray find their way off the streets and on track to a better life through boxing. She also teaches a women-only class focused on key skills, including self-defense.

This month Rita was recognized for her service to the people of Chicago with a President’s Volunteer Service Award (PVSA). The award is presented by the President of the United States and recognizes those who go above and beyond and demonstrate a sustained commitment to service.

AT&T is saluting Rita and 4,526 of her colleagues who have gone to extraordinary measures to support their communities. Whether it’s keeping at-risk kids off the streets, cleaning up our natural resources, or helping military veterans find jobs, AT&T employees spent more than 5.4 million hours making a positive impact in 2015.

Please join AT&T in thanking them for making a difference and read about other stories like Rita’s here.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual.