Leadership

NJGAKAD would not operate without a robust group of committed New Jersey leadership and a skilled, caring support staff. Here are the Champions for Exemplary Youth — in and out of the ring.

2018 Board of Directors

Jackie Atkins, Founder

Though she blushes at the number of Coach of the Year awards or her induction into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame, Jacklyn developed a reputation for being a miracle worker with her fighters, such as founding the competitive women’s boxing program at West Point Academy. Learning boxing from an early age with the New Jersey Police Athletic League, Jackie became fluent in multiple fighting styles in addition to serving as a development executive at AT&T.

Matter-of-fact excellence is Jacklyn’s norm; through her work with Give a Kid a Dream, she’s also began to be as recognized as a child advocate, including winning the Tony Dowling Child Advocacy Award in 2016.

“I believe these kids needed someone passionate about them and needed someone that would fight for them, and beside their family, whether that’s one parent or two, or grandparents,” Jackie says. “In boxing, I can enter a ring and perhaps I’ll win, or perhaps not. But when it comes to these kids, losing is not an option.”

Support and Teaching Staff

Karen Armstrong

Karen oversees the fitness training and homework assistance for the Making the Grade component for GAKAD and serves as the unofficial welcome committee into the program, guiding and instilling the basics of boxing and the foundations of the “Champions 4 Life” philosophy.  Karen has 30 years corporate experience in advertising sales and has boxed and kickboxed for over 20 years, obtaining a black beat in kickboxing in 1997. But above all, Karen in a teacher, balancing methodical progress with consistent positive energy, not relenting until her students master their task and empowering her kids to consistently try, and then achieve.

Rahn Carter

While GAKAD stays focused on how boxing improves lives outside of the ring, it takes competition inside the ring seriously. Rahn is the senior coach focused on ensuring GAKAD-based fighters are competition ready. A mainstay of the New Jersey boxing community, Rahn’s amateur or professional fighters thrive from his quiet determination and rigorous discipline. Rahn also coached the boxing programs at several Army camps, including Fort Bragg and Fort Bliss, and taught at youth development programs. New Jersey resident Dustin “White Tiger” Fliescher, made his professional debut in 2015 at Madison Square Garden and signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation promotions company after his second fight.

Vernice Morris, MSW

Vernice is the personal counselor to each child in the program, and it’s easy – nearly 10 years ago, she was that child. Mentored by Jackie in a precursor to GAKAD, she’s since dedicated her life to providing the same experience to those in need. Originally working with Americorp and Girls Incorporated and now in private practice, Vernice’s has a gift for tailoring scientifically proven methods for different communities. That’s been life skills for boxers, for example, or articulating and processing the homeless’ feelings through journaling. She also collaborated with The University of South Carolina to create a program for other community workers to better care for veterans specific needs and with the Missing Persons Unit in Law Enforcement to target underserved populations in police work.

Kevin Russell

While his 30-year Marine career earned him the rank of “Staff Sergeant,” Kevin’s coaching style with NJGAKAD’s teen division doesn’t fit the Hollywood image of Louis Gossett Jr. howling orders. Kevin rarely raises his voice, for starters, using a tone of power and self-control even if his fighters are amid a chaotic match. With certainty and matter-of-fact excellence, Kevin urges his pupils to outgrow brute force tactics and think strategically.  Kevin trains competition-ready teens of NJGAKAD and oversees the intensive Saturday training.  With the Marines, Kevin served in Operation Desert Storm and an extensive career in Homeland Security, granting him 10 medals or commendations including special accolades for the war on terrorism. In addition to NJGAKAD, Kevin coaches and teaches amateur boxing in New Jersey.