Jul. 17—The desire to help at-risk youth is what lead James Hankinson to start Hankinson Boxing Gym in Aiken.
"Gloves Up, Guns Down" is the motto of the gym which was started in 2015, he said. At the gym, he works to help youth ages 8-18 because he wants to make a difference, and this was the only way he knew how because he boxed from ages 8 to 16.
"With all the gun violence that is going on in Aiken, South Carolina, I just wanted to make a difference," Hankinson said. "I didn't know how to do nothing else. I didn't know how to play football, basketball, but I boxed when I was younger; that's the skill that I picked up ... boxing was my draw to change these kids' lives around."
Hankinson, 37, was selected as a member of the 2022 class of the Aiken Standard's Young Professionals 2 Follow.
At his gym, the students learn boxing; Hankinson said they also have mentors who come and speak to the kids about different topics.
"Gun violence, they talk about their experience, they give their testimony, mainly try to keep the kids in schools," Hankinson said. "(They speak) probably once every two months," he said.
Hankinson Boxing Gym is located at 2266 Edgefield Highway in Aiken. The gym also provides other services to the kids.
"(We do) tutoring; we go out to whichever school they go to to check on them," Hankinson said. "Of course, discipline when they do the wrong things of that nature."
Children aren't the only clientele at Hankinson Boxing Gym, he also said they work with adults on fitness and nutrition.
There are currently 10 adults and 30 children that attend the gym from all over the CSRA. He said his favorite part is seeing the growth in the youth.
"The children, being able to change their lives around and watch them grow," Hankinson said about what he enjoys seeing most at the gym. "Currently, from 2015, we had 22 graduates ... (we) helped them graduate high school."
When he's not at the gym, Hankinson works with the Aiken County Public School District as an ISS supervisor at Kennedy Middle School.
"This will be going on my fourth year," Hankinson said. "I was already working for Aiken County Public School District as a crew leader out on the grass crew, and I saw the opportunity to go in there; and I wanted to make a difference in the school as well and try to change some of these kids' behavior around."
Hankinson is a member of Bible Way Church of Aiken and of Umoja Village, which he's been involved with since it opened.
As for being one of the Top 10 Young Professionals 2 Follow, Hankinson said he feels very blessed.
"You feel good because when you think nobody is looking, everybody is looking at you," Hankinson said. "Sometimes you can feel no one sees what you do or respect what you do, but when I got that phone call, (it's) a little different."
Hankinson was nominated by Jabreiona Hankinson, and in the nomination letter it talked about the type of man he is.
"James is a very hard working man and also a wonderful influencer, and he helps with keeping children out of trouble," the letter said.