The DBG family had so much to celebrate at this weekend’s May 22 graduation ceremony at De La Salle Collegiate High School in Warren. After an intense senior year made more challenging by the COVID-19 pandemic, DBG students Kamarion, Omarion and Reynard all walked across the stage and received their high school diplomas during a high-energy outdoor ceremony. All three flashed bright smiles to match the bright futures ahead of them. DBG’s founder and CEO Khali Sweeney was among the crowd of classmates and family members cheering them on.
“These young men have a lot to be proud of. I’m proud of any student that walks across that stage,” Sweeney said. “Any kid who gets his/her diploma, it’s like a birthday to me. It’s really something special.”
DBG has had a 100% high school graduation rate since 2007 when our program first opened its doors. But, no year in history has been like the 2020-2021 school year. COVID-19 made face-to-face learning tougher at a critical time for Kamarion, Omarion, Reynard and all of our seniors. As a result, DBG expanded to full-day academic and athletic programming to accommodate our families’ needs. With hard work, determination, focus, the supportive staff at De La Salle, and the personalized tutoring, mentorship, enrichment programs, internet access and other resources provided by the DBG team, they all succeeded.
“My four years at De La Salle, I can truly say I have learned and gained skills that I can use in my day-to-day life,” said Reynard. “It gave me an understanding of college life that will help me in my next steps.”
“De La Salle has shown me that I have to step up and take responsibility for my own life and figure out my own path to success,” added Kamarion. “I have grown in many different ways. I learned to listen more and not always give a response. I learned to speak up when I need help and to help others. I learned how to stop procrastinating and get things done on time.”
De La Salle Collegiate is an all-boys Catholic high school founded in 1926. All three young men (and three additional DBG students who are younger) received scholarships to attend thanks to the support of businessman and philanthropist Tom Petzold, President of Petzold Enterprises, in partnership with DBG. He first started the William J. Gilbane Scholarship program several years ago, named for and inspired by his late grandfather who provided similar scholarships in Providence, Rhode Island. DBG students have the chance to apply in 8th grade.
“Detroit students have tremendous talent, but a lack of opportunity,” Petzold said. “By developing your talents, you can make a difference in other people’s lives and that’s the message [the Downtown Boxing Gym] and De La Salle teaches students.”
The scholarship program covers the $13,000 annual cost of tuition and transportation to and from De La Salle each weekday. The Downtown Boxing Gym uses its vans to transport the students to school and to the gym and/or home. A De La Salle alum stepped up to cover transportation costs.
“The DBG and De La Salle partnership is a perfect marriage,” says the school’s Advancement Director, Greg Esler, who got to know Kamarion, Omarion and Reynard during their time at De La Salle. “We both have the core values, morals, work ethics, and I think all of the boys really benefitted from that – the love they got from their teachers, administrators, counselors and the staff at the gym.”
“De La Salle has a much more individualized academic approach that aligns more closely with what DBG is doing,” added Katie Solomon, DBG’s Academic and Programs Director.
Back to the big day – with years of hard work behind them, the graduates arrived, decked out in purple caps and gowns, dress shirts, ties and dress shoes. They were seated on the athletic field, surrounded by their closest supporters.
“De La Salle was a wonderful place and experience for me,” Reynard said. “Without the scholarship, I would not have had the opportunity to go to Southern University A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. [This scholarship program] will help other students like myself have the chance to learn and succeed in life. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be in the first generation in my family to go to college.”
Reynard will major in engineering. Twin brothers, Kamarion and Omarion, each have different plans for the future. Omarion is a talented photographer who is focused on growing his photography business. Kamarion will be enlisting in the military.
“Scholarships like this are very important because it shows kids that someone is having faith in them,” Kamarion said. “For me, it put me in a better place to use all the resources I needed.”
“I couldn’t be happier for [Kamarion, Omarion and Reynard]. I’ve been so impressed by them and the way they’ve matured,” Petzold said. “I’ve been pleased to see how much the gym remains a crucial part of who they are. Their connections to the gym have been deep-rooted and critical to their success.”
“It was a monumental day for Kamarion, Omarion, Reynard, and the school,” added Esler. “It was beautiful. It was touching. There were a few tears.”
Anyone interested in contributing to William J. Gilbane Scholarship program and supporting future DBG students can contact De La Salle’s Advancement Office at (586) 541-6254.