We could not do what we do without our amazing volunteers! This is part of a series of blog posts to spotlight and celebrate the professionals from all over metro Detroit who give of their time and talents to help our students every single day. We are truly thankful for our volunteers and the spirit of community they bring to the Downtown Boxing Gym. Together, we are changing lives and helping make our students' dreams come true.
It was during his employer’s annual Christmastime family sponsorship program that Jose Bartolomei first became acquainted with the Downtown Boxing Gym.
Bartolomei, an attorney who works on corporate mergers and acquisitions and finance law as a member of the Quicken Loans legal team, says he always enjoyed buying presents for children in need. The company was sponsoring families from DBG.
Then, he says he saw ESPN’s 2018 feature story on the gym, and he made the connection between the organization his employer was working with and its broader nonprofit mission.
“I realized this gym was literally two miles from my office. I thought, maybe I could go down and volunteer,” he said. “It was just a matter of extending what was a fun, once-a-year shopping trip for local families. And the more I found out, the more I became interested.”
Now, Bartolomei is one of the gym’s weekly volunteers, participating after work on Wednesdays and helping students with academics. He says he helps whoever needs it, whether it’s with math homework or Spanish, which Bartolomei, who grew up in Puerto Rico, speaks fluently.
“It’s a really cool thing to shift away from work and spend time with really talented, bright, gritty kids who are trying hard to get ahead in the world. It’s really cool to do that,” he says. “I’m amazed by the things they’ve overcome and the extraordinary efforts they're making just to get an education.”
Bartolomei says he also gets a kick out of talking with students about studying law and the kinds of jobs that are available in law.
When he’s not volunteering at the gym or at his day job, Bartolomei keeps busy with his family at his home in Ann Arbor. He and his wife, Sara, who works at the University of Michigan, have two boys: Bo, 4, and Turo, 11, whom they adopted from Ethiopia.
Bartolomei says he’s struck by the drive he sees in DBG's students — and the contrast with his own upbringing in the Minneapolis suburbs, when a college education was never in doubt. He says he gets a “reorientation” by watching the students work so hard to succeed, graduate from high school, and pursue their dreams.
“It’s a cliché, but I get more out of it than the students get out of me,” he says.
The Downtown Boxing Gym welcomes volunteers to assist with our academic and athletic program. Learn more on our volunteering page.