Mohamed William, who was a combat medic in the United States Army for eight years, doesn’t consider himself a tough guy. Rather he’s a joker.
“My home planet got destroyed,” he said laughing when asked where he was raised.
But William, a licensed practical nurse at Queens Hospital Center, has started an initiative to help kids feel a little tougher and a little more confident.
William runs a free children’s boot camp after hours at the hospital where he has signed up to 40 families for self-defense and fitness classes.
Serving as a volunteer, he provides the equipment along with prizes and food for families. His goals are clear: foster healthier choices, self-worth and self-esteem, along with physical fitness.
A star high-school athlete and semi-professional boxer, William said the importance of physical fitness, especially for kids, is paramount.
“The truth is the first time I ran the class it was such a success, there was suddenly a huge demand,” he said.
Kids, parents and onlookers were raving about the heart-thumping class and its energetic leader.
Now the class is in its sixth straight year and William has no plans to slow it down. Once the school year ends, dozens of kids flood through the doors for the bi-weekly classes from throughout Queens.
“When I was growing up, I would go to the park in the summer, but for parents who can’t afford to put their kids in martial arts program, this was a great opportunity because it was free,” he said.
William emphasized that his classes are just one component of healthier living.
“This can’t just be about working out. Everything that you just managed to build, you can lose it all if you have a junky diet,” he said.
His classes, however, are no joke.
From the basics of nutrition, to plyometrics, to basic boxing techniques, William said he needs to push his students in order for them to see real results.
Those results, William said, have been tremendous.
“I’ve heard of kids who were bullied at school who now have the confidence to defend themselves, to hold their head up with confidence,” he said.
William himself was a target of bullies growing up and he said he wanted to make sure that young kids would have the self-esteem that he lacked.
“I wish I would’ve had a class like this when I was younger,” he said. “If I can take a shy child and have them come out of their shell, to me that’s progress.”