Originally published May 2, 2022 by the Las Vegas Sun.
By Hillary Davis
At Mission High School, the Slaughter House is a happy place.
It’s a fitness room, formerly two small, windowless classrooms, now filled with donated treadmills, rowing machines, free weights and heavy bags — and the optimism of Frank Slaughter, former UNLV boxing coach.
Mission High School is a tiny, specialized school just north of downtown Las Vegas serving about three dozen teens recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. It was the first fully publicly funded “recovery high school” in the country when it opened in 2017.
But physical education — two credits are required of Mission grads, same as any other Nevada high schooler — is limited to yoga or walking the perimeter of the paved courtyard, said principal Barbara Collins. Supporters of the school wanted more.
Jeff Horn, a retired Clark County School District administrator who helped launch the school and is now executive director of the district’s administrators union, reached out to Slaughter for ideas to retool the physical education program about two years ago, not long after schools went remote for the coronavirus pandemic.
Horn figured Slaughter would be able to tap his own extensive network and community spirit to put together something befitting such a unique school.
Slaughter understood the assignment. He didn’t kit out a boxing gym — there’s no ring, and he won’t allow contact. But he set up a space where students can do circuit training, hit bags and paddles, and set goals.
Slaughter said that these youths, who are turning their lives around and often coming from trauma, needed something “real.” And they needed a training program where they could make meaningful human connections, “more than just me holding mitts.”
The PACT Coalition, a local substance abuse prevention nonprofit, donated $50,000 worth of gym equipment. The Penta Cares Foundation, the charitable arm of the Las Vegas-based Penta Building Group, covered the room’s renovation. Collins said she’s overwhelmed by the support.
Slaughter said his next step is to get the funding in place for CCSD to bring on trainers — he’s thinking of aspiring physical eduction teachers from a local college who could work as paid interns. Although he’s a fit 67 years old with extensive experience training boxers and he’s happy to oversee other trainers, Slaughter said he doesn’t have the stamina to work out with teens five days a week.
He has it penciled out to $50,000 to $96,000 a year per trainer, depending on if trainers are full-time and receive benefits.
Slaughter said he wants students to be proud of this space, which was just finished and is so new that the smell of the squeaky-fresh rubber floor still snaps in the air. The school’s name and compass logo are stitched into the benches. And the doors are painted with “I am” and the walls are covered in affirmative adjectives: Strong. Important. Enough.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Horn said.
Yisel Basurto, an 11th-grader, watched with excitement during the year as the room was built. “I feel like this is gonna be an upgrade,” she said.
She’s completed her physical eduction requirement and doesn’t need to take a class in the new gym, “but I want to.”
Tony Salazar, a senior, was also impressed. He lessens his stress by working out. “Health is wealth,” he said.