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Lucy Laney student support specialist goes above and beyond for kids

Coach Morgan McDonald not only teaches boxing, but he also teaches life lessons.

MINNEAPOLIS — Lavendar Nelson is ranked No. 1 in her weight class for USA boxing.

She’s also 10 years old.

For most of her life, Nelson has boxed. Normally, you wouldn’t think of the word "discipline" to describe a fifth grader, but Lavender Nelson has a lot of it. She has already won six national boxing titles.

“She’s going for her seven national championships,” said LaQresha Nelson, Lavender’s mother. “Yeah, I can’t stop smiling. I’m so excited.”

LaQresha Nelson said her daughter’s coach, Morgan McDonald, has helped her achieve success.

Coach McDonald is actually a student support specialist at Lucy Craft Laney at Cleveland Park Community School.

“The boxing program started off, and still is, an intervention to kind of help the kids out regulating when times get difficult — as far as the situation in the classroom, outside of the classroom,” said McDonald.

Now, the program has grown into the after-school Lucy Laney Boxing Academy. 

McDonald not only teaches boxing, but he also teaches life lessons.

“As a kid, I know I used sports as an outlet. My mom dealt with a drug problem,” said McDonald. “I was one of those kids and my upbringing was rough. But at the end of the day, everything that happened to me was a tool.”

He’s a role model for these kids, teaching them to get back up again, do well in school and be a good person.

“That's all we doing, uplifting,” said McDonald. “Always uplifting, empowering the kids, and I try to do that day to day. If they're not getting it from home, they get it from Mr. McDonald.”

That might explain why he has put so much of his time and money into the program.

“He's got a 15-passenger van that he should not have paid for himself,” said Lisa Pawelak, the school’s principal.

Principal Pawelak says in order to take kids to competitions and get them the gear they need, he pulls from his own pockets.

“For him? It's an intrinsic,” said Pawelak. “You know, he'll often say that he was one of our children. He understands where they're at and what they need.

“He puts it really simply. He's like, 'I just want to be for them who I wanted to have when I was a kid,'” she said.

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