The program bringing out the best in young men
THEY may arrive full of bravado but they leave with quiet confidence.
A group of young men who formerly faced troubled futures are training at Rings Lismore, a mixed martial arts and self defence gym, under the watchful eye of head coach Sam Nest, teachers from Southern Cross Distance Education including Jonathan Green and The Buttery youth worker, Paul Phillips.
This trio present a formidable force and it's clear that on their watch, these youngsters in the Therapeutic Mixed Martial Arts program are in good hands.
Mr Nest is a former five-times Australian Light-heavyweight champion, but he speaks quietly as he encourages the young men who range in age from early teens to mid-20s, in their sparing practice.
He said the early intervention programs such as this make real difference with participants to "become a better man".
"This program has been running for about seven years and about four years ago we started on in Casino," he said.
"It's interesting seeing the character arc, some of them come in quiet and small of character, they start to grow and develop as human beings and become more confident."
Student Geoff, 14, said he's been part of the program for about 10 months and it's changed the way he behaves for the better.
"It's always good vibes when you come here, the boys the teachers and the coach," he said.
"This program brings out the best in you, I used to be wanna-be tough guy, I now have faith in myself and can walk away if a guy on the street tries to call me out."
Mr Green who has been with the program for two years said the MMA program is proving very effective for the young men, including improved school attendance, communication and social skills.
"We have got fantastic experience with Sam, he's very well respected by the students and this flows through the way they go through these activities.
"It's not just about the physical fitness, it's also about being mentally fit as well."
Mr Phillips said while the Buttery receives Commonwealth Government funding through the North Coast Primary Health Network, this program could not be delivered without wonderful donations from the Northern Rivers Community Foundation and a former international karate champion.
To make a tax-deductible donation please go to: https://www.buttery.org.au/make-a-donation/