About Downtown Boxing Gym

Since 2007 the Downtown Boxing Gym has been teaching kids growing up in Detroit’s toughest neighborhoods valuable life lessons - inside and outside the classroom, and inside and outside the boxing ring. By providing mentorship, tutoring, and basic needs support (transportation and food) for our students, we are able to create a lasting impact that ripples out across the community.

How we serve

The Downtown Boxing Gym currently serves more than 150 students between the ages of 7 and 18. More than 75% of the enrolled students live within a 3-mile radius of the gym. Many are residents of the nearby public housing units. Their families benefit by witnessing and participating in our hands-on coaching methodology.

Our programs are 100% free to all our students. Each student receives top tier educational support, mentorship, transportation and healthy food options. And the best part is that it’s working. Our ever growing waiting list now exceeds over 850 kids.

Our mission

Through education, athletics, mentorship and intervention, the Downtown Boxing Gym empowers Detroit students to be positive and productive members of society.

The Downtown Boxing Gym is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Every dollar contributed helps to shrink our waiting list and allows us to serve more students.

Meet our team

Khali Downtown Boxing Gym

Khali Sweeney

Founder and CEO
Opening a safe haven for kids who grow up in Detroit’s East Side was what Khali Sweeney had in mind when he opened the doors to Downtown Boxing Gym in 2007. His own history as a Detroit native shapes the curriculum he has developed for the Youth Program that emphasizes books before boxing and community service. Khali shares his knowledge of boxing and his enthusiasm for learning by creating an environment where kids can be themselves, support one another and have the courage to stand up against the pressures that they face every day. Khali’s life changed one day when he realized that everyone he knew was either dead or in jail. He knew that he had to make a difference. A father of two, he is proud of the young adults his children have become as they pursue their college degrees.

Jessica Hauser

Jessica Hauser

Executive Director
Jessica joined Downtown Boxing Gym in 2010. She walked into the gym for fitness training and left with an ambition to make the youth program survive. Once she saw how the kids responded to Coach Khali, she was hooked. She has her bachelor’s degree in political science from Oakland University and is pursuing an advanced degree in International Children’s Rights through the University of Michigan. She has studied with Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Fred Mester and worked with Birmingham Public Schools, developing the school system’s after school programs. Her passion for children and education drives her to tirelessly work toward the growth of DBG’s Youth Program.

Carolyn Geck

Development Director
Carolyn Geck is working to spearhead development and fundraising efforts as Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program continues to grow. Formerly an arts administrator and project manager with Michigan Opera Theatre, she has led initiatives in design, sponsorship, volunteer coordination, production, marketing, and logistics, as well as financial oversight. A member of the Board of Directors for Opera MODO, Carolyn works to promote development of community programs in order to engage wider audiences. She volunteers with Tour de Troit and the March du Nain Rouge, and has lived in the city since 2001.

Kristin Lusk

Academic Coordinator
As Academic Coordinator, Kristin oversees academic programming for our students. Having grown up in the metro Detroit area, she is familiar with the strengths and opportunities that surround our youth. Kristin earned her undergraduate degree in architecture from Lawrence Technological University. After completing her studies, she went on to become Director of Outreach Education for the Detroit Center for Design + Technology. During her time there she taught and authored a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) based curriculum in Education Achievement Authority (EAA) schools, Detroit Public Schools and other metro area school districts. At the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program, Kristin works to further develop the academic opportunities available to our students, including college and career readiness programs, STEM initiatives, academic interventions and enrichment programs.

Mike Mroz

Academic Coordinator
Passionate about education and helping to change the lives of the young people who participate in our free, after-school academic and athletic program, Mike also oversees academic programming for our students, with the focus on elementary-middle school students. He joined the Downtown Boxing Gym from the Michigan Science Center where he was the traveling science educator. Mike grew up in the metro Detroit area and graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in elementary education. Before college, he lived and worked at Disney World, the happiest place on Earth. Mike’s focus is improving grades and educational awareness for each student who participates in our program and, in turn, making a positive and long-lasting impact on students’ lives.

Coach Tamika

Research & Growth
Asiya El, also known as Coach Tamika, started volunteering at the Downtown Boxing Gym as a parent in March 2013. She joined the coaching staff as Coach Khali’s assistant and an amateur boxing official in April of the same year and helped organize a parent group to raise funds to help students attend out-of-state boxing events. In 2017, she was honored as the “Most Outstanding Official” at the Golden Gloves National Tournament. Today, Coach Tamika is also responsible for overseeing our transportation program, drivers and fleet of vans. She is a mentor and second mother to many. The safety and well being of our students is her number one priority.
Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz

PR & Social Media
Robin serves as the Downtown Boxing Gym’s chief storyteller, overseeing all aspects of communication including PR/media relations, social media, blogs and web content, video production and more. Robin is an Emmy award winning former TV news anchor/reporter with Fox 2 News in Detroit. She also previously served as Director of Public Relations for Dan Gilbert’s real estate company, Bedrock. Robin has a passion for Detroit and its people, the boxing gym, and the ongoing story of our efforts to change lives and help our students thrive. She owns her own PR firm, Robin Schwartz PR. Members of the media can send inquiries to media@downtownyouthboxing.org.

2017-18 Board of Directors


Julie Lodge-Jarrett

Board Chair

Julie Lodge-Jarrett is the Chief Talent Officer (CTO) at Ford Motor Company, and has overall global responsibility for Talent Acquisition, Learning & Development, Organization Development, Diversity, People Processes and Culture. Julie, her husband, and their two children lived in Shanghai, China, for nearly 5 years and are avid travelers and adventurists. Julie is a strong champion of Better World initiatives, and has invested countless hours volunteering around the world, helping to make lives better in the communities in which she’s lived, worked and traveled. She was hooked – figuratively and literally – from the first day she walked into DBG, and is excited about progressing the mission of the organization in the months and years to come!

Peter Fezzey

Vice President

Peter Fezzey is the Strategic Partnerships Manager for USA Today Network - Michigan. In his role, he oversees all event & experiential marketing partnerships for the Michigan properties which include the Detroit News & Detroit Free Press. Peter has worked primarily in media but also has experience in fundraising, most recently with Forgotten Harvest, helping them to meet the rapidly growing demands for food assistance in the Detroit community. Peter has helped with many local causes including Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and Karmanos Cancer Institute. He has deep family roots in the city of Detroit and attends Woodside Detroit Church.

Sara Ross


Sara Ross is a Director at Rock Ventures, which serves as the umbrella company for Quicken Loans and the Family of Companies. Sara leads portfolio management and is involved in strategic growth initiatives and M&A. Sara currently resides in Ferndale and has a BBA and Masters of Accounting from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. She is an active member in the United Way Emerging Philanthropists, co-chair of the Emerging Leaders Microloan fund through the Michigan Women’s foundation and a business advisor to RISE baking, a subscription baking service.

Elizabeth Kmetz


Elizabeth Kmetz is Vice President, Development Director for Broder & Sachse. Elizabeth is responsible for the execution of new developments and historic renovations in Detroit. She also serves on the Metropolitan Detroit Building Owner and Managers’ Association board of directors. Elizabeth has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University Wisconsin, Madison and a Master of Science in curriculum and instruction from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. She holds a Michigan real estate license and a Real Property Administrator designation.
Board Members

Rakesh Aneja

Rakesh has twenty years of experience in diesel powertrain development, including engineering leadership and program leadership responsibilities in the fields of advanced engine, aftertreatment and OBD system development. His core competencies include technology and product development (from technical concept through field sustaining); engineering project and platform management; global organization development and collaboration; people development; and continuous improvement via process and tools optimization. Rakesh received his Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University, Indiana, U.S.A. and his Bachelor of Technology degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India.

Clifford Brown

Clifford Brown is a Managing Partner of Woodborn Partners and Analyst with Ford Motor Company. He graduated with an undergraduate degree and MBA in Finance from The Ohio State University. He serves on the Trustee Board of Metropolitan Church of God and is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Amy Deines

Amy Green Deines is the Dean of Cranbrook Academy of Art, appointed July 2016. Prior to coming to Cranbrook, she was a Professor and Interim Dean of the College of Architecture and Design at Lawrence Technological University (LTU), where she also acted as Executive Director of LTU’s Detroit Center for Design and Technology (DCDT). Deines also sits on the National Organization of Minority Architects Detroit Board of Directors. She has traveled extensively, teaching in Warsaw, Poland at the Warsaw Institute of Technology (WAPW), and in Germany, Italy and Canada.

Joe Esposito

Joe Esposito is the CEO of Managed Programs, LLC, plastic component supplier to the auto and marine industry. He has 25 years of Operations and Supply Chain experience. Mr. Esposito holds a B.S. in Industrial Distribution from Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. Originally from the Chicago area, Joe relocated to Northville, Michigan with his wife and three kids. He is a member of Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in Northville.

Joe Freers

Joe Freers is a Director within the Risk Assurance practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP (PwC). Dedicated to a career spanning both PwC’s Detroit and Philadelphia offices, Joe provides specialized consulting in risk, controls, audit and compliance for mid-market private through large multi-national public companies. Cultivating a passion for connecting with people and developing our community’s youth, Joe is an active volunteer in the United Way Emerging Philanthropists organization, and serves as PwC’s local firm liaison to various charities such as Cornerstone Schools and directly to the Downtown Boxing Gym. Joe holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Michigan - Ross School of Business. Joe is a devoted husband, father to 3 active children, and a resident of Southeastern Michigan.

Nick Gorga

By day, Nick is a partner with the Detroit-based law firm Honigman Miller Schwartz & Cohn, LLP where he serves at the vice-chairman of the firm’s litigation department. He previously served for several years as the chair of the firm’s pro bono committee, where he organized the firm’s donation of free legal services to its pro bono partners, and the firm’s hiring partner, where he helped bring the nation’s top law students and attorneys to Detroit. By night and weekend, Nick is extremely active in civic and charitable endeavors in Detroit, including most significantly serving as the founder and chairman of Hatch Detroit, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that supports and funds storefront retail businesses in Detroit neighborhoods. Nick is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Michigan Law School.

David Moss

David Moss is the Senior Partner of Moss & Colella, P.C. He has successfully litigated thousands of cases in Michigan State and Federal Courts on behalf of clients for more than 30 years. He is highly respected by both plaintiff and defense litigators and regarded as a skilled and tenacious advocate. Mr. Moss is a loving father and family man. He is also committed to helping others and enjoys a variety of outdoor activities.

John Owens

John Owens is Senior Director, Marketing and Public Relations for Forgotten Harvest. He has served in that capacity over the past five years. Prior to his “encore” career at Forgotten Harvest, John held senior management positions in Marketing and Communications with major financial institutions in the Midwest. John has two children who currently live in Chicago and has been married to the love of his life, Susan Greenwald, for the past thirty-five years.

Michael Perkins

Michael Perkins is the Corporate Sales Manager at WDET 101.9 FM, Detroit’s NPR radio station. He has 19 years of media sales experience with 11 years in commercial radio sales with CBS and Clear Channel Communications. Michael brings his commercial sales, marketing and promotions experience to public radio, assisting corporate and non-profit underwriting clients reach WDET’s quality audience. He has an M.B.A. from The University of Detroit and a B.A. in International Business and French from Alma College.

Matthew Roling

Matthew Roling is the CEO of BoostUp. BoostUp is a venture backed start-up that helps people save for their down payment on life’s biggest purchases. A resident of downtown Detroit since moving to Michigan in 2003, Matthew is an avid cook and traveler.

Todd Sachse

Todd Sachse is CEO and founder of Sachse Construction, and vice president of Broder & Sachse Real Estate Services, Inc. Over the past 22 years, he has developed a loyal clientele of high-end customers who require detailed expertise in design and construction. Todd earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan in 1985. He is a licensed builder in dozens of states, certified LEED Accredited Professional and a Senior Level Certified Development, Design and Construction Professional (SCDP)

2017-18 Advisory Board

Farshad Fotouhi

Dr. Farshad Fotouhi is currently Dean of the College of Engineering at Wayne State University. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Michigan State University, College of Engineering in 1988 and joined the faculty of Computer Science at Wayne State University in August 1988. He served as the Department Chair from January 2004-February 2011. Before joining WSU in 1988, he was a faculty member of the Lyman Briggs School, Michigan State University, while earning his Ph.D.

Dr. Fotouhi’s current research interests include Biomedical Informatics, Semantic Web and Multimedia Systems. He has published over 180 papers in refereed journals and conference proceedings. His research has been supported by NSF, NIH, National Institute of Drug Abuse, Michigan Life Sciences Corridor, Ford Motor Company and many other industries.

Ron Fournier

Ron Fournier is the Associate Publisher for Crain’s Detroit Business. As Associate Publisher, Fournier leads editorial content strategy and works to expand new business and audience opportunities for the publication. Prior to joining Crain’s, Fournier served as editor-in-chief of the National Journal for two years and as senior political columnist for the National Journal and The Atlantic. Fournier has won many journalism awards, including the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Award and the White House Correspondents’ Association Merriman Smith Memorial Award. A graduate of the University of Detroit Mercy, Ron began his journalistic career in Hot Springs, Ark., moving to Little Rock to cover then-Gov. Bill Clinton. Fournier is the author of Love That Boy: What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son Taught Me About a Parent’s Expectations which became a NYT bestseller. He serves on the senior advisory board of the Harvard Institute of Politics.
Jennifer Hammond

Jennifer Hammond

Jennifer graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Broadcast Communications along with a double minor in English and Journalism. While there, she worked in the Sports Information Department covering football, women's gymnastics and basketball.

After living in Chicago, Jennifer made her way back home to Detroit, working for WDFN and covering the Lions, Wings, Tigers, and Pistons, along with both Michigan and Michigan State sports. This led to a full-time job as the News Director at Fox 2 Detroit where she currently works.

Yodit Mesfin Johnson

As Chief Relationship Officer at NEW (Nonprofit Enterprise at Work), Yodit initiates strategic partnerships, high impact collaborations, and innovative business opportunities. Prior to joining NEW, she directed a statewide business development project for the Center for Empowerment and Economic Development (CEED). Yodit studied Marketing and Communications at Eastern Michigan University, and is the 2014 recipient of the American Business Women’s Association Rising Star award. Yodit is founder of Lips & Hips, a leadership program for girls and women.

Bruce Nyberg

Bruce Nyberg joined Flagstar’s board in March 2015, after serving as interim director of Community Banking. As a board member, he serves on the company’s risk committee.

Prior to Flagstar, he was regional president-East Michigan for Huntington Bancshares Incorporated for six years. He had a 28-year career at NBD Bancorp (now Chase Bank), where he led Michigan Commercial Banking, Retail Banking Operations, Marketing, Information Technology, and Electronic Banking. Among his board memberships are the Bowling Green State University Board of Trustees, Forgotten Harvest, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, and the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion.

Stephen Luigi Piazza

Stephen Luigi Piazza is the Senior Director of Mortgage Loans with Quicken Loans here in Detroit. In his nearly 20 years with Quicken, he has been instrumental in many key projects, including leading the company’s presenting sponsorship with the Detroit Pistons. He joined the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program Advisory Board in February of 2014 and has worked tirelessly to support efforts to grow the program. Stephen is currently the co-host of Opportunity Detroit, a radio program focusing on the revitalization of Detroit.

Jim Ryan

Jim Ryan founded JPRA Architects, an award winning architectural firm specializing in National and International commercial projects, and directed design and marketing activities until his retirement in 2008. He serves Lawrence Tech University on the Alumni Board, Steering Committee, and Distinguished Architectural Alumni. Jim serves as the Architectural Advisor to the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program.

Hubert Sawyers, III

Hubert is principal at SORSAW Enterprises, a digital marketing consultancy that specializes in optimizing search and social efforts to enhance business activity. Hubert has supported other local causes including North Rosedale Park Civic Association and Michigan Humane Society. A Michigan State University graduate, he studied both International Relations and Japanese. Born and raised in Detroit, he now resides in Ferndale, and spends time collecting records, cooking, and staying physically active.

Tahir Whitehead

Tahir Whitehead was selected by the Detroit Lions in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft out of Temple University. Whitehead, who became one of the teams most valuable players on special teams through his first two seasons, moved into the starting lineup at middle linebacker for Detroit September 28, 2014. Whitehead finished an impressive season with 86 tackles, 2 interceptions and 5 passes defensed. A native of Newark, New Jersey, Whitehead has found his niche working with youth in the Metro Detroit area, with a primary focus on education. Since September of last year, Whitehead has hosted events with organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan, the Detroit Public School Systems Proud Strong Learner’s Program and Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program.

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6445 E. Vernor Hwy. Detroit, MI 48207 | (313) 209-3029

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The Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization (IRS EIN 27-5106242). All donations are tax deductible.

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