One Lexington native and University of Kentucky alumnus is receiving some well-deserved recognition: Jamyle Cannon has been named CNN Hero, which features “everyday people doing extraordinary things to change the world.”
Cannon’s heroic deeds were inspired by his own upbringing in Lexington, where he says he questioned his place in the word and struggled with anger issues. By the time he hit 12, Cannon was undergoing court-ordered anger management classes after he was arrested for fighting. His mom helped him throughout this time, while also raising his three siblings as a single parent.
“There were times when the lights would be turned off,” Jamyle Cannon recalled. “To think, we were so poor we don’t deserve water or electricity — that’s an experience that stands out about my childhood.”
Things changed for good when Cannon saw his mom walk across the stage and receive her diploma from UK. He was 14-years-old at the time.
“When she graduated with a degree in social work, I watched our lives change almost immediately,” he continued. “I wanted to follow in her footsteps, and I wanted to continue that upward trajectory.”
— UK Alumni (@kentuckyalumni) February 5, 2020
In 2006, he enrolled at UK, declared social work as his major and started boxing competitively. By 2009, he was named National Collegiate Boxing Champion. In 2010, he had his own bachelor’s degree from the UK College of Social Work and was working for Teach for America. Two years later, he had a master’s degree in secondary education, and he moved to Chicago’s west side. He took his passion for boxing with him.
In Chicago, he opened his own boxing club. The club grew quickly and expanded into the nonprofit “The Bloc,” which uses boxing as a hook to get kids in the door and then provides them with tutoring and mentorship. The program is now available in five schools throughout Chicago. Over the past four years, Cannon and his program have helped more than 300 students. The group has also maintained a 100 percent high school graduation rate and a 100 percent college acceptance rate among the participants who apply.
“We are so very proud of Jamyle, the work that he has done and, perhaps most importantly, the lives that he has positively impacted,” Jay Miller, dean of the College of Social Work, said. “He is a testament to our college and the university. And I am thrilled that his impact has been honored in such a positive way.”
It’s this positive impact that qualified Cannon for the title of a “CNN Hero,” which has been spotlighting inspirational leaders throughout the entire world since 2007. Despite his many accomplishments, Cannon doesn’t necessarily view himself as a hero, saying he’s simply “doing his part.”
“Some say, ‘you can’t save them all.’ I don’t buy it. I think every kid is worthy.”
For more on CNN’s Heroes, click here.