Meet the Downtown Boxing Gym's New Apprentice

Downtown Boxing Gym student Kadeem Anderson is among our next generation of leaders. Thanks to a grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, he is receiving leadership training to ensure the longevity of our program for years to come.

The newest face at the Downtown Boxing Gym is a familiar one to longtime staff and previous students.

Kadeem Anderson, a 2015 graduate of our program, is the boxing gym’s new apprentice under founder and CEO, Khali Sweeney. Anderson, 21, is putting his passion for helping students to work while learning the ins and outs of running the gym.

“Basically, I’m learning how to be Khali Junior,” he jokes.

Anderson, who lives in Detroit with his mother and the youngest of his five brothers, first began attending the boxing gym when he was 12. He's been away for a few years, having graduated from Lansing Eastern High School and enrolling in college - but, he's excited to be back.

Kadeem first discovered the Downtown Boxing Gym after his uncle, then a coach at the gym, invited him to come by. “I fell in love with it,” he says.

Kadeem participated in both boxing and academics, excelling in both. What ignited his passion, he says, was simply Khali’s mission to offer a positive alternative for students who live in tough neighborhoods with poor schools and minimal resources.

“Many kids in the inner city are susceptible to the streets and drugs and bad influences,” Anderson says. “Khali's program gets kids further away from that. It's a safe haven and a place to learn, grow and be inspired to do better."

"What's so great about Kadeem is that he has the experience of being a Downtown Boxing Gym student just a few years ago. He grew up with our program," says Downtown Boxing Gym executive director Jessica Hauser. "Kadeem is closer in age to our students and can relate well to to them. He's also a role model, and students look to him as an example. But, he also still has room to learn and grow - so being an apprentice is a great learning and growth experience for him."

Journey To Apprenticeship

Anderson grew up in Detroit but moved to Lansing in 2013 to be with two of his older brothers who lived there to attend better schools.

“I felt like I wasn’t getting the passion from the teachers,” he says of his time in Detroit. “I just felt like they were passing me along. I wasn’t learning what I was supposed to be learning. I felt like I was behind, even though I was doing pretty well in class.”

Even while in Lansing, Kadeem stayed connected with the gym, which set him up with a mentor to get him ready for college.

He attended Oakland University, where he completed pre-med classes, but left after his sophomore year, saying he jumped into college too quickly. He then obtained a Certified Nursing Assistant license, figuring it would be a good addition to his resume.

But Sweeney, he says, wasn’t pleased.

“He said, ‘I really see a lot in you,’ and that’s when he offered me the position,” Anderson says.

He accepted it on the spot.

“I felt like I was offered this opportunity for a reason, so I took it.”

Since then, Anderson has been at the gym every weekday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., absorbing leadership skills from Khali, working with students and learning public speaking skills from his highly sought-after mentor.

“Mostly it entails basically learning about how to run a successful nonprofit, the ins and outs of everybody’s position, getting to know the students on a personal level, where they are from, their home life, and how everyone in the building works together as a team,” he says.

Eventually, Kadeem says he plans to continue his education in medicine, possibly at Wayne State University's medical school. But, right now he's focused on learning the skills needed to become a leader, someone who could potentially run the boxing gym program in the future.

“I have a lot of time ahead of me and I believe in doing as much as possible when I’m young, and I’m really passionate about the students,” he says. “Right now the boxing gym is my main focus and priority."

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. foundation is providing $250,000 in funding each year for 2018 and 2019, the largest grant the boxing gym has received to date. Funds will support the hiring of additional full-time, professional educators and enable the program to bring in more students with the goal of reaching 250 students by 2020. The apprenticeship program is also covered by the grant. The gym’s long-term goal is to open more facilities in Detroit and around the country.

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