By Megan Mawicke

CHICAGO (CBS) — When Kim Hickey walked into Leo High School on the South Side and applied for a job as a math teacher and boxing coach, the principal said to the petite blonde woman, “You’re kidding!”

She wasn’t, and the principal gave her a shot.

As CBS 2’s Megan Mawicke reports, it didn’t take long for Hickey to win the respect of everyone at the school – especially the boxers.

Standing just 5 feet tall, and weighing only 100 pounds, Kim Hickey packs a mean punch, and is knocking down stereotypes. She’s an assistant boxing coach at the all-male Leo High School, where 90% of the students are African-American.

“It’s surprising how many similar experiences as a person I have with these boys, even though I am this blonde petite white female from Winnetka,” says Kim Hickey, Leo assistant boxing coach.

“Honestly, I was hesitant at first, but the kids love her. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, or white, or whatever color. If the kids see that you care and love them, they will respond well to you, and that is what happened here at Leo,” principal Phillip Mesina said.

The 24-year-old attended New Trier High school, and honed her skills in the ring at Notre Dame. Now she’s coaching 30 boxers, and stresses character building over competition.

“They’ve had struggles at other schools, at home, (so) we bring them to the gym and it really helps bring them an outlet for their emotion and we teach them how to compose themselves,” Hickey said.

“We were like ‘Who is this Miss Hickey?’ Then we saw her in the ring a couple of times, and said, ‘Wow, she really knows what she is doing.’ She is always strong and assertive, never lets you slack off,” said high school boxer Darioun Smith, Jr.

“She has really earned her respect around us, so we really appreciate her at Leo. I appreciate her a lot. She’s taught me so much about life, school, and boxing,” added boxer Kendall Smith.

“We’re very excited to have her. They all respect her. She does not suffer fools. I just hope we can keep her around,” said Leo boxing coach Mike Joyce.

“I think it will be rewarding to see how they grow, see how they’ve matured, and see … the lessons they’ve learned as people,” Hickey said.

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