Editor’s Note: The Early Learning Nation Studio recently attended the 2023 National Black Child Development Institute’s annual conference in Charlotte, NC. We had rich and illuminating conversations with early learning researchers, policymakers, advocates and practitioners of all ages. The full collection of video conversations can be found here.
Why was the Undisputed World Champion in the Super Featherweight Division at a conference on early childhood learning? Because at some point in life, we all need to step into the ring, and before any of us does, “it’s important that every child knows what confidence is.”
Chris Riback: Alycia, thank you for coming by the studio.
Alycia Baumgardner: Thank you for having me.
Chris Riback: So you are the undisputed, super featherweight champion of the world. What are you doing at a conference on early childhood learning?
Alycia Baumgardner: It was an opportunity for me to inspire and nothing better than coming to this conference to speak with the kids and just to be great people. I love what we’re doing here. And again, this is my first time, so I’m happy that I was able to be a part of something special.
Chris Riback: Tell me about your own education. You grew up in Ohio, you live now I believe in Detroit, but is Ohio where you went through school?
Alycia Baumgardner: Yes. Ohio’s where I went to school, where I started. And if I could remember back then, my childhood was a great childhood. The learning, the experience I was able to gain as a young child and just continued throughout my life.
Chris Riback: We all have that experience of that one teacher that was so meaningful to us. Maybe it’s not one, maybe you don’t remember her or his name, but did you have an experience like that? Is there a role that a teacher or a couple of teachers really played in your childhood?
Alycia Baumgardner: Of course. So if I could think of a teacher that inspired me, his name was Mr. Bates and he pointed me out one time and he was like, “You have some nice arms.” And I used to be self-conscious about my arms. He’s like, “Those are amazing arms.” And he was like, “What do you do?” I’m like, “Well, I box.” And he was like, “Be confident in who you are, be strong.” And he just made me believe more in who I was and that being confident in having arms like these was a good thing and not a bad thing.
Chris Riback: As you think about young children, as you think about black children in communities, you live in Detroit now, how important is helping any child gain confidence even at the earliest stages?
Alycia Baumgardner: It’s important that every child knows what confidence is. And when you know what confidence is, you’re able to know self. And I think it’s important that young children know who they are at a young age. That could be five years old and they’re speaking positivity into themselves. And I just know that it goes a long way. And I am nobody today if I didn’t have the confidence as a young child, as I did at five years old, six years old. And it’s just important that every kid can experience that. They are confident in who they are, what they look like, their skin color, their hair, their arms, their body shape. It’s important that kids are confident and continue to use that as they go into their adulthood.
Chris Riback: And just in listening to you, it’s making me realize that inspiration can come from anywhere. It can come from a world champion. It can come from a teacher. What did Mr. Bates, I assume that that was high school. What subject did he teach?
Alycia Baumgardner: He taught science.
Chris Riback: He taught science? Yes. The ability to talk with children, not just about academics, but about the whole child, the whole wellness. It’s got to be an important factor.
Alycia Baumgardner: It’s an important factor because everything is able to combine together. So when you have teachers who are speaking positivity, they’re giving confidence to these young kids at a young age, we’re able to carry that and that sticks with us. It stuck with me as an adult. Now I can speak on it and say that he inspired me along the way to love my arms and to keep building that confidence.
Chris Riback: What’s next for you?
Alycia Baumgardner: What’s next is continuing being the best that I can be, inspiring the youth. Inspiring just that next young girl who wants to come into the sport of boxing. Even the young boy who’s wondering what’s next. Boxing teaches discipline. Boxing teaches respect. It also teaches that confidence that I speak about, and it’s just important that I’m able to be a voice and an inspiration to the younger generations because we are setting the path. I’m breaking barriers right now in women’s boxing and young girls are able to grab a hold of that, and I didn’t have that growing up. So I’m happy that I can be a trailblazer to the younger generation coming up.
Chris Riback: Alycia, thank you so much for coming by the studio. Good luck to you in your future.
Alycia Baumgardner: Thank you.