By Mike Kilen
CUU Information Office
Angel Cervantes‘parents own the aptly named Hard Knocks Gym.
While competitive boxers train at the Western Phoenix Gymnasium, other young people with problems at home or struggling at school come there to deal with the stress in their lives.
“Boxers have taught me that you can go beyond the limits of your body, where you think you have nothing left to give,” said Cervantes, a justice studies student at Grand Canyon University. “They know what hard work looks like. They are the toughest people I know. From them, I acquired a sense of discipline.
He credits his success to those around him who set an example, including those boxers and his parents, Suzanne and Arturo Ortega. The sophomore was recently selected as one of two Arizona students for the 2021 Arizona Justice Educators Association Scholarship.
“I was raised in this sense of giving back to the community,” said Cervantes, who is also an inspirational student scholarship recipient at GCU. “My mom taught me to always love – not just the people you agree with – but that everyone deserves love. We all come from God. We all come from humble beginnings, and whatever you have, you put your best foot forward there. You have to work hard because nothing will be returned to you.
The Hard Knocks Gym, near 24th and Peoria avenues, was a great influence, but he learned from many others, including his grandfather and Kevin walling, Chair in Justice, Government and History Studies at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
“You can learn from everyone – the athletes, my mom, the mentors in my life have all taught me to have an open ear,” Cervantes said.
Cervantes wants to reciprocate.
He wants to prepare his parents for retirement someday, “help them like they helped me” and serve his community as a police detective.
It is difficult to be in law enforcement today. He wrote an essay for the AJEA scholarship competition which explored a growing distrust of the criminal justice system.
While his article acknowledged that numerous cases of police brutality have surfaced in recent years, Cervantes wrote that social media and news media are partly to blame with biased reporting that creates an ‘us versus them’ mentality between the public and the police.
“I was brought up with integrity, living God’s plan for you and respecting authority,” he said in an interview. “Authority, a lot of people say today, is racist. It’s discriminatory against people like me and other Latinos. I want to show people that justice is not there to punish you for who you are. It must be impartial and non-discriminatory. He can reform you.
“What I want to do with my justice career is give back to the community. I know a lot of Latino families. They have no way to get to school. They have no way of securing a family. They have no way of putting food on the table every day.
“But I’ve seen a lot of Latino police officers have a strong identity with their culture. And I want to restore confidence in my heritage after my career. “
An AJEA review committee appreciated what it saw in the awarding of the scholarship to Cervantes, with a focus on scholarship, community service and interest in criminal justice, AJEA said Doug Janicik. “He is truly a deserving candidate.”
Cervantes is already setting an example in the community, giving private lessons to high school students through the SIS program “to make their dreams come true because this dream was made for me.”
“My scholarship (SIS) was my duty or my death to enter school. Honestly, it was my only way to get a higher education. It made my dream come true.
He is also giving back to GCU as a leader of Honors VOICES, an Honors College service club, and plans to apply to become a resident assistant next year.
“Angel shows the kind of determination in college students that I love to see,” Walling said. “The ambition has materialized into action is great to see in the students.
“It is important that our students are academically engaged so that we can train better police officers for our communities, and I am happy to know that our students are recognized for this commitment through scholarships.
Cervantes said he wanted to show his community that law enforcement people are taking care of it.
“My mom always told me to do the right thing, even if no one is watching. Honor and respect your neighbor, serve the underserved and go out and give an ear and a shoulder, have a generous heart, ”he said. “I think it can have an impact on the justice system. “
Grand Canyon University Senior Writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.
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