RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Carmela Dorantes, a freshman at Southeast Raleigh High School, has a passion for boxing.
"I really love boxing. It's one of the things that I thought I would never do," she said. "Now that I have, I want to keep on doing it for the rest of my life."
A year ago Carmela found out about Second Round Boxing, a free program designed for at-risk youth ages 10-21.
"I needed something, I guess, to escape from my home, from school and everything," she said. "I found boxing online."
Brandon Mantei, the program supervisor, said that's the goal of the program.
"This is a safe place; it's free. I provide the gloves, the hand wraps, the mouth guards, the ring," he said. "She went from day one just learning everything to now, she kind of runs this gym."
When Carmela was 13, she was trying to help provide for her family, working nights at a hotel with her mother, among other things.
"We would leave at like one and come back at five," she said. "The bus came around six so I only had like 30 minutes to sleep a little then I would have to change and head to my bus stop," she recalled. "Sometimes, it's just really hard to keep up with everything especially when you have to miss school because you need to help provide for your family."
Carmela's struggles weren't typical of a teenager.
"A lot of teenagers shouldn't have that pressure and feel pressured 24/7," she said. "They should be a teenager, they should be worrying about like oh, is the guy that I like going to show up today? What should I wear? Not like am I going to be in my house today ... or are we going to get kicked out?"
That's when boxing came into the picture.
"I worried a lot," she said. "Then I came in here and I would be like, OK, this is what I do for three hours ... what I focus on for three hours. This is my space ... only me ... all my outside problems were away for a while."
"Knowing her story and watching her every single day come in here with a smile and put 100 percent work in, really makes me just kind of step back," Mantei said. "She's very resilient."
Carmela said boxing hasn't just helped her get in shape, it's given her confidence both inside and out of the ring.
"It's provided me like a second home, I guess," she said. "A place that I can come, like if I have anything that I want to get off my chest I can work out and I'm not as mad or frustrated or anything anymore. Or even if I can't work out and that's not going to help, I can talk to people here."
Second Round Boxing is a free program designed for at-risk youth ages 10 to 21 living in Wake County. For more information click here.
Wake teen finds hope in Wake County youth boxing program