LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — As a kid growing up in South Central Los Angeles, John Negrete has always had to bob and weave to stay on the right path.

The 17-year LAPD veteran says he never would have made it to where he is now if he hadn’t joined the cadet program, then known as the Explorer Program.

“The community is impacted by gang activity. And if anything, it gave me a safe haven. It gave me a mentorship,” Negrete said.

When he was 14, he became an explorer at Newton Division, where experienced community and police work. Years later, he ended up working as an officer there. Through his love for policing and the sport of boxing, he began to lace up and recruit local teens in the ring.

Officer Jose Rivera said: “I met John at a boxing gym when I was 16. He asked me at first: ‘Hey! What do you plan to do after high school? Have you ever thought of being a police officer?'”

Fast forward eight years, Rivera is now a rookie with the LAPD after going through the cadet program, thanks to Negrete.

“I feel like if that day never happened, I don’t know where if I would be right now with the opportunities that opened up for me,” Rivera added.

After seeing so many lives changed by the cadet program, Negrete decided to start the Newton Cadet Scholarship Foundation last year. By helping pay kids’ college expenses, he believes he is giving back and giving them a fighting chance at life.

“As we know, college is very expensive. An education is very expensive. So, it’s my way of paying it forward,” Negrete said.

Boxing may have brought Negrete and Rivera together. But now, they share the LAPD uniform, badge, and a purpose.

“Get a police officer  to start a nonprofit organization for the station that paved the way for them,” said Negrete.

If you would like to help the Newton Cadet Scholarship Foundation, contact Officer John Negrete at 35133@lapd.lacity.org.

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