Bootcamp in Cudell neighborhood aims to teach boys Tamir Rice's age non-violent coping skills

Posted at 5:29 PM, Jul 08, 2016

This incident in Dallas is an underscore of the tension we’ve seen across the country between the community and the police force, and it’s not foreign to us here in Cleveland.

But there’s a summer boot camp on Cleveland’s near west side aimed at changing the mentality of young boys from the inside out.

 "Down 1, Down 2, Down 3" shouted Khufu instructor Peter Whitt as the six boys in camp did their pushups.

"It's not difficult, it's just you gotta get used to it and you'll get it," said Aaron Hardy Jr. on of the kids in the group.

Mixing hand and footwork, with the buddy system, the Warrior Bootcamp for boys has one goal in mind.

“When you think of Warrior, you think of a fighter, but we're trying to come at it from a different place. We want these kids to be Warriors for justice," said Shelly Grason, program manager of the camp and founder of the Butterfly Project, in which the camp is through.

The violence prevention camp meets in the same park where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed. An overlap that's not coincidental.

“Because so much has happened in Cudell, there's still a lot of healing that needs to happen, so the root of everything we try and do with the Butterfly Project is really about healing, it's about transformation,” Grason said.

In the coming weeks the boys will learn a variety of coping skills dealing with anger and frustration through things like art, yoga, self-defense and martial arts.

“Some of these kids have a lot of environmental stressors. We want them to be community peace builders," she said.

And so far they've been having a ball doing just that.

“I thought it was gonna be like real boring at first, but when I got to be in it, it got fun," Patrick Smith, another boys attending the camp said.

Grason explained the importance of reaching this particular age group.

"Specially that age is sort of like a turning point and we want to make sure we turn them in the right direction."

Now this is the first year for the free warrior boot camp program, specifically targeting 11 to 14 year old boys. Every week leaders will tackle a different subject with the boys, from sex trafficking, to gun violence and peaceful interactions with the police.