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Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program

At the Downtown Boxing Gym, Carlo Sweeney (aka “Coach Khali”) uses boxing to teach discipline and structure to Detroit youth. This discipline is reinforced through mandatory tutoring sessions and community service, forming a holistic approach toward success in academics and life.
Michigan Nightlight: In your view, what makes your program innovative, effective or remarkable? 
Downtown Boxing Gym Chief Administrative Officer Jessica Hauser: Our founder Carlo “Coach Khali” Sweeney uses the medium of boxing to mentor and guide youth in a positive direction. The coach has created a family-like environment within the program to promote accountability, friendship, and support. He allows and encourages family participation, which is very important to help build family bonds. We also place a strong emphasis on tutoring and academics.
What was the best lesson learned in the past year?
We have been able to see over the years how important it is for kids to see their close friends and others around them succeeding. It keeps them focused on living their lives to their full potential. Another great lesson we learned is that once people know who we are, they are excited and willing to get behind us by either volunteering or offering financial support.
What was the hardest lesson learned in the past year?
We push our kids to live out their every dream. Reality hit us hard this year when two of our kids who graduated from high
Reality hit us hard this year when two of our kids who graduated from high school and enrolled in college had no way to get to school or to work.
school and enrolled in college had no way to get to school or to work. These kids are first in their family to graduate from high school, and of course, first to attend college. Because of bus route cuts they cannot take the bus. This was a sad reality to discover and is just one example of the difficulties our kids face. We are in the process of figuring out how to fund a program that gets our kids the tools they need so that they can live out their dreams.
What really differentiates this program?
I believe the mentoring offered by Coach Khali sets us apart. Any coach can teach a kid the sport, but he is a daily inspiration for the kids and their families, and not just during youth program hours. Having the academic component and community service component is also very unique and the heart of what we do. Coach requires all program participants keep their grades up; they must work with our tutors daily to participate in the athletic side of things.
What are the keys to success for your program?
We connect by mentoring the youth through an activity that they enjoy. We like to say, “boxing is just the hook.” That gets them involved, and then in the longer term, the program’s focus on academics ensures their success going forward in life. As for us as an organization, keeping the word our about all of our successes will be important in getting the support and funds
I'm inspired by the coach's style of mentoring the kids by teaching them life lessons and giving them guidance to stay on the "right path."
needed to continue.
What are people in your program most inspired by? 
Personally, I’m inspired by the coach’s style of mentoring the kids by teaching them life lessons and giving them guidance to stay on the "right path." He also puts academics first; all the kids have to participate with our tutors daily, and if their grades drop, there are consequences, such as not being able to participate in a tournament. We have a 100 percent high school graduation rate, and all of those who have graduated from high school have gone on to college. I attribute that to Coach Khali’s ability to guide the kids in a positive direction. As for the kids, they are most inspired by the coach’s teachings and seeing the older kids being successful. It allows them to realize there is a path to success.
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  • Downtown Boxing Gym
    Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program (DBG) is a Detroit 501(c)3 nonprofit that develops good citizenship in urban youth through a demanding boxing program in addition to strong academic support and a connection to the community through voluntary ...


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