Whether it is playing hoops in the gym, throwing some punches in the boxing ring or just hanging out with friends in the teen center, Kevin Diaz appreciates what the local YMCA has done for him.
Raised by his grandparents, Ileana Velazquez and Luis Mendoza, since age 2, Diaz started coming to the Jamestown YMCA Teen Center since seventh-grade and hasn't left.
Now a freshman at Jamestown Community College pursuing a career in physical education, Diaz attributes most of his success to his time at the Y and the help he has received from John Barber, Teen Center director.
Kevin Diaz, left, Jamestown YMCA boxer, practices with his coach, Chip Swanson.
"At the Y, the staff wants everyone to be successful in life and be positive role models," said Diaz. "John is one of the main reasons that I have accomplished some of my goals like being on my high school basketball team, getting good grades, and being the first in my immediate family to graduate from high school."
Diaz graduated from Jamestown High School in 2012 where he played basketball all four years. He got his start with basketball by playing on the YMCA Teen Center league before that time.
"By playing basketball, it made me realize that I can do anything in life and to work at each every day," said Diaz.
Barber, who is very proud of Diaz, knows first hand about his capabilities.
"Kevin is developing into a fine young man who as he gets older is called to be a great worker, husband, father and community member," said Barber. "I consider it an honor to know Kevin and look forward to seeing him continue to grow into the honorable man he was made to be."
As far as his passion for boxing goes, he learned this at an early age by watching his grandfather box.
"I always had a skill for boxing and grew up around the sport," said Diaz. "When I was little, I was always throwing punches and practicing. My family and friends encouraged me to stay with it, and I have learned so much at the Y."
Under the direction of coaches Chip Swanson and Donald Peach, he participated in the Golden Gloves Tournament in Buffalo in January, representing the 141 novice weight class. His next match in Buffalo is March 30.
"Kevin is a great young man and has a contagious enthusiasm for the sport of boxing," said Coach Swanson. "It is a pleasure to coach him and see how hard he works in the gym."
Diaz is the son of Xiomaryra Mercado of Jamestown and Luigi Diaz of New York City.