About this series: The Downtown Boxing Gym is incredibly proud of our 100% high school graduation rate – a track record of success that has continued every year since 2007 thanks to the hard work and dedication of our students, staff and volunteers. As graduation approaches, we’re celebrating our Class of 2018 seniors and their bright futures.

Melanie R. is one of our shining stars and the recent winner of a four-year, $20,000 Coleman A. Young Foundation college scholarship for her proven leadership potential. On June 5, she will graduate from Cass Technical High School along with 589 classmates at Ford Field.

Melanie is the essence of the Downtown Boxing Gym’s principle that education changes everything. She began attending our program three years ago and gained self-confidence through fitness while achieving academic success with the help of our tutors. The scholarship she won will help her pursue her dream of becoming a software engineer and developing amazing mobile apps. Funds will be used to pay for tuition, fees, room and board, books, and transportation.

“The gym helped not only with my self-esteem because I lost a great amount of weight from my 10th grade year that changed my physical appearance, but they also worked with me on my math school work,” Melanie explained. “They helped raise my grade from an F to a B by working with me every day. They not only helped me to get one assignment done, but also made sure I knew how to do that same problem any time I see it again throughout life.”

College preparation is an important component at the Downtown Boxing Gym. Melanie visited a variety of college campuses with our team. This fall, she will study software engineering at Wayne State University. She says decision was an easy one, inspired by her grandmother.

“My grandmother had a love and passion for engineering. She pursued engineering in the automotive field,” Melanie said. “I knew I wanted to do something with computers, so I looked up different engineering careers and when I read what a software engineer did, it automatically fit everything I knew I wanted to do in my career.

“The gym also inspired me to be a software engineer with the different programs they took us to that dealt with technology like RocketFiber, TechShop Detroit, and the Wayne State Engineering Summer Program we attended.”

During her time at the boxing gym, Melanie gave back as a peer tutor and an event coordinator. Outside the gym, she also participated in an anti-bullying club and Big Brother Big Sister. Her creative mind is always thinking about different ways to use technology. She already has ideas for various software apps to assist with the education of other students and reduce paper usage at the gym.

“My major is Computer Science because it covers software engineering and many other subjects like coding and how to program Adobe Java,” Melanie said. “My professional goal is to build a free education program that teaches STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to all Detroit Public School kids. I would also like to develop an app for the gym that can help tutors and an app for the van pickups and drop offs so we can use less paper and ink.”

Much like our founder and CEO Khali Sweeney, Melanie has a dream of helping children grow through education. She says one important lesson she learned at the boxing gym is to always give back – a lesson she will carry with her for the rest of her life.

“Khali inspired me and I want to have a nonprofit organization just like him,” Melanie said. “With my organization, I’d like to help kids build an interest in technology. I haven’t thought it all the way through, but I know I want to have an organization that helps get kids off the street and educates them just like Khali.”

Congratulations, Melanie! Your Downtown Boxing Gym family is proud. We know you’ll accomplish anything you set your mind to – and we’ll be cheering you on along the way.