“DSAL literally changed my life.”
When Yahya Elshawabi was first referred to the DSAL Boxing program in March of 2019 he was a 17-year-old attending Brenkwitz continuation high school at the Hayward Adult School. Facing mobility issues due to his size, he says his primary goal in the program was to lose weight.
“Boxing is a great sport, and it’s challenging,” said Yahya. “But you know, when you’re at my weight it takes double the effort to do the things other people do. It’s a challenge, but it’s still fun. When I started boxing I was around 390 pounds...I’m at 280 now. Hopefully with experience and time, I’ll be able to compete.”
DSAL Boxing Coach Mickey Lopez has been continually impressed with Yahya’s progress.
“His persistence and his will to learn how to box and lose weight has been so strong that he lost 65 lbs in 5 months,” said Lopez. “Today his level of boxing has increased tremendously compared with his first time, and he continues to strive for more. This is one of the reasons why we are here and why we continue to push people to overcome their fears and insecurities as well as provide them with better options to develop a healthy and clean lifestyle.”
The weight loss hasn’t been the only benefit to the program for Yahya, however. He tells us, “going to DSAL’s boxing program was the best decision I’ve ever made. WIth the weight loss came more confidence. People actually ended up respecting me more, which was a surprise. And then there’s this confidence, there’s a sense of camaraderie in the gym that I’ve never really felt before. The coaches are great. Everything about it was really good. It gave me a new point of view to look at life.”
The Impact of COVID
A freshman in the Fire Technology program at Chabot College, Yahya had an internship with the Fire Department planned for the summer, but then COVID cancelled his plans. The sudden change caused disruption and disappointment for Yahya, but he has tried to stay flexible.
“I understand it, I really do,” said Yahya. “But I am disappointed. I had a lot of plans that got cancelled--a lot of new experiences. I’m young, and there were so many things planned, including a drivers’ license test that got cancelled. But you know I’ve been learning--because I haven’t exactly had the easiest life--that these things happen and you kind of have to roll with the punches.”
Yahya is studying part time to be an Emergency Medical Technician and hopes to go on from there to become a firefighter. But his spirit of civic service doesn’t stop there. Until the Shelter-in-Place orders came, he was also an active participant in the Hayward Youth Commission at City Hall, which advises the Mayor and City Council, and the elected boards of the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District (HARD) and Hayward Unified School District (HUSD) about issues that affect young people in the Hayward community. Members also work on projects and activities throughout the year, identifying youth needs, and organizing youth “speakouts” and conferences.
Staying Fit and Staying Hopeful
Yahya has continued to participate in DSAL’s Boxing program throughout the shutdown by participating in Coach Lopez’ online workouts.
“The workouts have definitely helped me keep my technique sharp and my body at least a little fit,” said Yahya. “It’s a good alternative, they’ve been doing a good job and putting in a lot of effort.”
So what does Yahya want people to know about DSAL?
“I wish they knew how much participating in Boxing—or any DSAL recreational activity—how much it can change you. Literally, if I wasn’t a part of DSAL, if I never found DSAL, if I’d never participated, I’d be over 400 pounds, I wouldn’t be able to walk. All my dreams of the future would be crushed. DSAL literally changed my life.”
“You know you have to look at things with a lot of optimism, the world is alive right now and we’re just a small little peg in the machine, we just gotta do what we have to do to make the situation better. I know in the grand scheme of things we can’t do much, but we just gotta think it through and go with it. Follow the flow of what’s happening right now.”