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Advocate Lakewood/East Dallas: LaBori Boxing combines STEM and Sports

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

(By Renee Umsted for Advocate Lakewood/East Dallas, published June 23rd, 2023)

Neuroscience and boxing may attract different crowds, but East Dallas resident Amanda Alvarez wants to change that.

She was introduced to boxing at a young age, growing up in Puerto Rico, where the sport was an important part of her family life and the culture. She has been training in boxing for the past 14 years.

But her day job is working as a consultant in the pharmaceutical industry. Alvarez moved to the United States when she was 18 to study neuroscience at New York University. She stayed in New York for a year after graduation, researching cellular and molecular mechanisms of autism.

Then she came to Dallas, where she earned her doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2017.

Wanting to expose more kids, especially students of color, to boxing and opportunities in STEM, she founded a nonprofit, LaBori Boxing.

Eight kids showed up for classes when the studio opened at the Samuell-Grand intersection in January. Within a matter of months, 40 are now regular participants.

“It’s just crazy to see how fast they can learn in a matter of weeks,” says Alvarez, who lives in East Dallas. “They’re already looking that much closer to a real boxer, and they’re like 9 years old.”

Through LaBori, kids ages 8-18 get access to free boxing classes and opportunities to learn about potential careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

Students are divided into two groups, one for younger kids and one for older. Each age group trains two days each week, learning the proper stance and footwork, how to jab and punch and how to move to avoid hits. The older group, ages 13-18, has more of a focus on strength conditioning compared to the younger.

“My favorite thing is watching their self-confidence grow,” Alvarez says. “It’s very, very noticeable. In a matter of a week, you can tell they feel that much stronger, that much more confident, and then they start making friends.”

Word of mouth, along with partnerships with Jubilee Park Community Center and Buckner NextStep, have drawn more people to the boxing classes.

LaBori held its first STEM event in May. A woman from Dallas College shared information about STEM opportunities at the school and made packets for a few students who had expressed an interest in nursing. To Alvarez’s surprise, the kids were engaged.

“I was concerned that it was going to take a lot to get them to come because boxing is a lot more fun than sitting down, talking about science,” Alvarez says.

It took a few months to get the STEM events going, but more experts are lined up to come speak with the kids.

Alvarez will give a presentation on neuroscience, explaining what scientists do and what career opportunities exist for them. And she’s planning on having an IT specialist and an engineer give talks. For a small fee, LaBori offers fitness courses for adults, too. Proceeds pay the instructors and fund the youth program.

“The vibe is just like a happy family, just happy vibes,” Alvarez says. “The music’s going. People are basically half-dancing, half-boxing for the most part because they’re just having fun. It’s a big LaBori family.”

Recently, the studio offered a self-defense class for women and girls, which Alvarez says they want to repeat because of its popularity. The class started at the request of female bartenders who work in the neighborhood.

“This is my happy place,” Alvarez says. It’s just been happy. It’s been a really, really amazing experience.”

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