OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – “This class made me more confident in my skills and I can walk into any room and have confidence now.” An OKC high school student talking about what it has meant to be a part of the training going on at the Come Up Foundation inside the Oklahoma City Center.
The executive director of the program is a young man named Emanuel Rivera, known as E Man to his students and friends. A Mixed Martial Arts athlete, radio announcer and more importantly a friend. E Man teaches kids, both boys and girls, in underserved areas of OKC the science of boxing for free… but it’s about a lot more than showing these kids how to use their fists. “I used to be on a very bad path before I was in boxing,” another one of his students told us. “What we do here has really helped me get on the right path.”
E Man has a lot of help here. From people like his sister Erika, who focuses on the girls who train at the center. “I always tell the girls it’s not for you to learn how to be a fighter, it’s really just to protect yourself… to have that confidence.” And coach Carl Belford who told us how E Man continues his mission outside the gym. “E Man is not just a coach to the kids,” Coach Belford told us. “He’s a mentor…some of the kids you know he’s gone to some counseling appointments with them…a lot of these kids they’ve been looking for a mentor. Or somebody that cares. Or will listen. And that’s what E Man is.”
Emanuel’s friend Lacey Harkins nominated him for Pay It Forward. “I think that they’ve learned where to target maybe their negative energy into something positive,” Harkins told us. “I know some of the kids have had a hard upbringing. They have the opportunity now to deal with those emotions in a positive way and that will continue through their whole lives.”
With the help of First Fidelity Banks Andy Sullivan who supplied the 400-dollar Pay It Forward award, we surprised E Man at City Center as he was training his students. “Wow. Thank you so much wow,” E Man said. Then with his eyes filling with tears he told us, “It’s special because I used to be one of these kids. I used to be the kid that didn’t know…where to go..which direction to go. I didn’t have this…so..it’s tough but I love it.”
Emanuel Rivera…paying it forward..one young person at a time.
Pay it 4Ward is sponsored by First Fidelity Bank.