Dewey Bozella, who was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1993 and spent 26 years in prison, will be the keynote speaker at the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Foundation’s 8th annual Opportunities for Education Dinner on April 25, 2012 at the Radisson Plaza Hotel.
Bozella was exonerated and released from prison in 2009. In addition to earning many academic certificates and college degrees while in prison, Bozella trained as a boxer. He fulfilled a dream on Oct. 15 when he boxed against and defeated Larry Hopkins at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Bozella, 52, said that fight was his last. He is now devoting his life to helping others, working with a non-profit organization that assists recently released prisoners transition back into society. He also works with at-risk youth in Newburgh, New York through a mentoring and boxing program at a gym dedicated to this mission.
This brings him to Kalamazoo where he’ll share his story at the OFE dinner. Bozella firmly believes in the power of education. He has earned 52 academic certificates, is a certified HIV and AIDS counselor, and has a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master’s degree in Theology. “Once I opened up my mind, that was it,” he said of the drive to learn.
Bozella said the lessons he learned in the boxing ring have had an overreaching impact on his whole life. And while he won’t box again professionally, he’ll never be far from the ring. “Boxing is my love,” he said. “It helped me to survive while I was in the penitentiary. Boxing is the art of science and life is like science. It teaches you things you never thought you’d be able to do. What I try to do through boxing is teach kids that they can learn how to do many things. They learn the sport and find out about themselves.”
Bozella said he has consistently relied on seven basic principles to meet his goals. First, work to overcome fear because it can be immobilizing. “If you didn’t have fear, what would you do?” he asks. Commitment, persistence, forgiveness, determination, hope and faith are also essential, he said.”Take yourself from fear to commitment and forgive yourself for whatever it is that’s getting in your way,” he advises. “Forgiveness takes you a long way.”
Bozella admits that conflict and struggle are simply a part of the human condition. “No matter how you slice it, there will always be struggle and conflict,” he said. “The key is to have a never give up attitude and get around people who are about what you’re about.”
Bozella received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for his courage and perseverance. Past recipients of the award include Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali and Billie Jean King. “Although many lessons in my life have been difficult to learn, I am now in a position to help others based on my experiences and that is worth the world to me,” Bozella said.
Bozella said he holds no grudges against those who falsely accused him. Throughout all of his years of imprisonment, he maintained his innocence and calmly worked to better himself. Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Foundation, Steve Doherty said Bozella’s story of perseverance struck a chord with him. “I’m pleased that Dewey Bozella is speaking at this year’s dinner because his story is amazing,” Doherty said. “At the same time, I know many of our students struggle with adversity. With our help, they’re able to beat the odds and meet their educational goals.”
The OFE dinner benefits Kalamazoo Valley Community College students with financial needs. In 2010, Kalamazoo Valley Community College processed 17,533 requests for financial aid, a 25% increase over the prior year. Of those requests, only 49.9%, or 8,741 students, received some form of financial aid. Each year, a larger percentage of applicants have been left un-served due to grant and scholarship funding levels not keeping pace with financial aid.
The OFE dinner takes place from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on April 25 at the Radisson Plaza Hotel & Suites in downtown Kalamazoo. Tickets for the April 2012 event will be available through the KVCC Foundation website at http://foundation.kvcc.edu/. Tickets are $125 each or $75 each for students. Sponsor tables that seat eight are available for $1,500. For more information about the event and the KVCC Foundation, contact Executive Director Stephen Doherty, 269-488-4442 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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