“I believe what my community lacks is guidance or a role model for the children of the community to look up to.”
-- Tyler Matthews
As a 2017 Chicago Golden Gloves Champion and 2018 United States Intercollegiate Boxing Champion, Tyler is well on his way to being the role model he believes young people deserve. Matthews, a 19 year old from the Chicago’s East Garfield Park community, wants to create a path for himself that he hopes his neighborhood’s youth will follow.
Growing up on the West Side, Tyler says “The gun violence in the city has created a bad reputation for Chicago”. Learning that his older brother had been shot opened Matthew’s eyes to the city he lived in. While his brother made a full recovery, the experience made Tyler fear for his family’s safety. Many young people who experience violence in Chicago grow up to lead violent lifestyles of their own. Tyler was determined to overcome the odds.
In 2014, Tyler joined an after-school boxing club that met in a classroom at DRW College Prep. The club, now known as The Bloc, was founded by Jamyle Cannon to provide mentorship and academic help to Chicago teens who want to fight. With no experience, just passion and a desire to learn, Tyler absorbed every bit learning he could. In the process, he found his leadership potential and learned the benefits of supporting his community. “Mr. Cannon pushed me to be a better influence for newcomers to the program. I had to get out of my comfort zone and lead activities,” Tyler recalls. “It was new to me because I had never shown leadership. I wasn’t outspoken. I learned that I could do something to impact others and be a good role model.”
In his years of boxing, Tyler has not only became a exceptional boxer, but also an extraordinary fighter for peace. In high school, he served as a peer mediator, helping to settle conflicts and decrease violent outbursts between students at his school. Of this experience, Tyler explains, “I liked the chance to do something positive for the school and prevent unnecessary violence from happening.”
His service as a peer mediator gained him acceptance into the Peace Exchange Program-- allowing him to travel to Johannesburg, South Africa to learn how to create a more peaceful environment in not only his school, but also in the city of Chicago. “Creating peace involves helping people,” he says, and in South Africa, he did just that. Between helping build houses and facilitating meditation sessions, Tyler learned that through service, you can help people cope with personal issues that serve as the root causes of violence.
In just 5 years, Tyler grown from a reclusive kid trying blend in, to a championship boxer and an advocate for community improvement. He believes he has a long way to go to make permanent change, but with his efforts to inspire the kids in his neighborhood, he is quickly becoming an example of Chicago’s potential.
“I want people to see me as a champion for my community. I want to do something positive and be a role model. We need to make a better name for Chicago.”