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Justice Studies student Amanpreet Kandola found resilience through boxing

For as long as she can remember, University of Guelph-Humber student Amanpreet Kandola has resisted limitations.

When the Justice Studies student took up boxing as a hobby in June 2017, she heard discouraging feedback from people close to her – that it was a “sport for boys” and that she might “ruin her face” – but she was undaunted. She pursued the sport passionately, and has since racked up medals at competitions across Ontario and the northern United States.

Likewise, when people questioned her longstanding dream of becoming a police officer, she responded with similar determination and resolve.

“Everything I do in my life involves overcoming stereotypes,” Kandola said. “I was told girls can’t get tattoos; I have tattoos. People said girls can’t be boxers; I’m a boxer. They said girls can’t be police officers; I want to be a police officer.

“I want to break any stereotype that comes my way. No one should stop anyone from pursuing their goals.”

A knockout workout

Kandola’s career ambitions in law enforcement and her boxing career are intertwined. As a high-schooler, she knew she had to improve her fitness level to eventually thrive as a police officer, and a personal trainer recommended she try boxing.

Instantly, she was hooked.

“After attending the first class, I knew that it was something that was meant for me – this new passion and determination I had for it was amazing,” she reflected. “Boxing is my passion and desire; it’s my hunger. I love the art that comes along with the sport, the technique, the different styles, the different variation of punches.

“Also, I love having this outlet to express all my emotions and feelings. Whenever I feel frustration, anger or anxiety, all I have to do is put my gloves on and it will all vanish.”

Amanpreet Kandola

Over the roughly 18 months from July 2017 to December 2018, Kandola participated in 25 boxing matches. Over that period, she was named the 2017 Silver Gloves Champion, the 2018 Silver Medalist for Silver Gloves, and the provincial 2018 Golden Gloves Champion.

She trains up to six times per week, often for as long as two hours per session.

Still, she says her studies at the University of Guelph-Humber come first.

“Training is like studying – you have to put in the work and the effort in order to get the results you’re aiming to achieve,” she said.

“But school is my No. 1 priority. It comes before anything. I try to manage my time and work so that I know I will be able to train while getting the marks I want.”

In fact, Kandola says the resilience demanded of boxers has carried over to other areas of her life.

“In boxing, it’s impossible to dodge every punch, which means you are bound to get hit,” she said. “But how you react to that hit is what builds character. You can compare it to life – it doesn’t matter how many ‘hits’ you take in life, whether it is emotional or financial or in school or work – it’s how you handle and react to them.

“You come back stronger and smarter, knowing what’s coming at you and overcoming it.”

Compassion for the community

Kandola chose the University of Guelph-Humber in part because of the opportunity to attain both a degree and a diploma, noting that other institutions would not have given her the opportunity to branch into police foundations or community justice studies.

She also liked the robust student services at UofGH, including seminars and job fairs, and was drawn to the opportunity to gain real-world experience in a field placement. She completed a placement at Seva Food Bank, which provides nutritious and culturally appropriate food to low-income families across Mississauga. That placement gave Kandola valuable experience interacting with people of different cultural backgrounds and learning about the challenges faced by some in her community.

“It was a great experience that I would highly recommend to other students,” she said. “Looking back, I realize I was lucky and I was so fortunate to have chosen UofGH.”

After graduation, Kandola hopes to continue on her journey toward becoming a police officer while maintaining her passion for boxing and competition. In both pursuits, she hopes to give something back to the community.

“I also coach boxing, so I would love to open my own gym in the future,” she said.

“I want to create programs and services for people, especially young people, who cannot afford them or who seem to be going down the wrong path. I want to try to give them a motive and a purpose to put their energy into something that would benefit them.”