Jennifer Denise Bojanowski

December 2013 

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Awesome Foundation Oahu is thrilled to give a grant to Jennifer Denise Bojanowski for use at Mahoney Hale.

Jennifer took up boxing in her mid-20s and went on to teach boxing classes for close to ten years. After training for over six months at Kalakaua District Park, she won the first and only amateur bout by technical knockout. She would like to see participants in her awesome project access the same outlet for stress and experience the same source of self-confidence and self-esteem. Jennifer wants to launch this non-contact boxing program as part of her HPU Master in Social Work internship assisting felons exiting the prison system.

Jennifer Bojanowksi's idea:

Mahoney Hale is Hawaii’s only Federal Residential Re-Entry Center (RRC) for offenders preparing to release to our community. 

Up to 90% of Mahoney Hale’s female residents have been sexually abused. Such past traumas strongly correlate with a woman’s pathway to criminality, her crime, and even her experience of prison as a re-traumatizing event.

Now, imagine a convicted felon has served her sentence and is moving onto your street. Would you rather she had only experienced punishment during her incarceration, or that she’d been offered opportunities for change?

Mahoney Hale is exemplary in its trauma-informed care perspective 1, which addresses the continuing impact of past traumas, including incarceration itself. Through healing these old wounds, female residents obtain healthy coping skills and self-images. This creates a strong foundation from which to make different life choices to reduce recidivism.

Why boxing? As counterintuitive as this may seem, boxing can be an antiviolence experience, especially in the non-contact format of Jennifer’s Awesome Project. Let a participant in a similar program for survivors of violence 2, explain:

“It’s a creative release valve for me because I tend to harbor my emotions inside so that they become toxic. And with the heavy bag I imagine that the bag is all those people who made my life a living hell…..While you are letting it [anger] out you’re not hurting anybody, in fact you’re helping yourself. I mean a lot of times we’re told ‘turn the other cheek’….but what happens if you’ve had years of doing that? How do you deal with or release all that pent up anger and hatred inside of you safely?”

Anger is a dominant and appropriate emotional response to violence and trauma. The opportunity to safely embody and release the anger can be transformative, a motivation for real change.

1Roe-Sepowitz, D., et al. (2009). Social Work with Groups, 32: 4, 330-341. 2Van Ingen, C. (2011). Sociology of Sport Journal, 28: 171-188.

Money will be spent on:

$1000 will allow Mahoney Hale to purchase most all of the boxing gear needed to begin our program for a maximum of thirteen female residents. Once Mahoney Hale has the gear, Jennifer can begin the program. Since her practicum only goes through May, she would really love to get started as soon as possible. The goal is to train a few permanent staff to coach, allowing the program to continue beyond the presence of Jennifer.