For some students, a little extra attention from someone other than their families and teachers is just what they need to get- and stay- on the right path to success.

At Panola Way Elementary School, Furquan and Sheila Stafford are working with selected students to help them do just that. They are owners of the Stafford Boxing Club Mentoring Program, which they established in 2020. Using boxing and other techniques as tools, they mentally enhance students who are at risk. The Staffords mentor 25 fifth-grade students several times a month at Panola Way Elementary to assist them with their academic and social-emotional learning.

“We didn’t have an initial place to start it, but after prayer, we did research we saw that Panola Way tested in the bottom five percent in the state of Georgia,” said Mr. Stafford. “We felt that’s where God wanted us to go, so we came to the school, met with [Panola Way ES Principal] Dr. Corey Stegall, and it’s been amazing ever since then.”

The Staffords teach students the importance of education, financial literacy, confidence, decision-making, self-control, and mental toughness. The Stafford Boxing Club Mentoring Program partnered with local representatives from Truist Bank to teach the students about saving.

Dr. Stegall said he is excited to have this partnership with the Staffords and Truist Bank to teach students valuable, in-person lessons.

“I believe this program will make a mark on these students’ lives that we won’t make with just regular education,” said Dr. Stegall. “I think we’re going to see these students, who used to make some bad choices, decide that a consistent pattern of good choices will benefit their lives more than the trajectory they were on before getting with Stafford Boxing.”

Not only do the Staffords check in on the students at school, but they also visit them at home and sometimes deliver meals. A few students also had the opportunity to visit Selma, Alabama, on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Dr. Stegall and the Staffords said they have seen improvements academically and behaviorally in the students.

“We see confidence, better testing results, better respect for others and themselves,” said Mr. Stafford. “We’ve heard from parents saying their kid’s conduct at home is better. Overall, the Stafford Boxing Club Mentoring Program has been a success, and we appreciate Panola Way Elementary School for allowing us to start it here.”

“We hope they will be consistent with what they’re learning here in elementary school because what they learn here, they will have to take it and reinforce it in middle school,” said Mrs. Stafford.

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