Science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) is an important focus for students at the Downtown Boxing Gym. Every weekday, elementary through high school students opt in to participate in a variety of classes in the DBG STEAM Lab – studying everything from computer coding, robotics, and digital animation, to insects, weather patterns, animal life cycles, and more. In fact, the DBG STEAM Lab is currently under the microscope itself – being studied by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Purdue University and DBG. The five-year collaborative study aims to uncover what inspires students to enthusiastically “opt in” and how DBG’s holistic approach, which incorporates student voice in programming decisions, fosters self efficacy or a student’s belief that with effort they can be successful.

The impact is significant. 98% of DBG students “opt in” to STEAM programming and 90% end up pursuing STEM careers. Below, learn more about members of the DBG Class of 2024 pursuing STEAM dreams.

Kenneth Cain 

Kenneth, a Cass Technical High School student, became more active and curious about different career paths during his time at DBG and fell in love with all things science and technology. Now, he is one the four student researchers participating in the NSF STEAM Lab study where he’s gaining valuable research and interviewing skills. 

“It was so fun, so engaging. I was just learning and experimenting with things [in the STEAM Lab],” he says. “Even if it didn’t work out, it was still so much fun. I just fell in love.”

One opportunity Kenneth will always remember during his time at DBG was participating in a summer camp experience at Lawrence Technological University. He had the chance to stay on campus with a fellow DBG student and learn about automotive engineering. His future plans include attending college to pursue aerospace, mechanical or automotive engineering. He also aspires to become a valuable resource to the community with plans to return to DBG as a mentor and role model for the next generation of students pursuing STEAM. Kenneth has been attending DBG since third grade.

“DBG has become a core memory place like home and school, it’s like my second family,” he says. “Participating helped me to learn responsibility, develop time management skills, and better understand project management. To this day, the DBG team provides support and keeps me on track in addition to giving me so many opportunities.”

Artis Watson 

Artis’ journey at DBG has been transformative. His initial interest in boxing and other sports evolved into a broader quest for self-improvement, supported by DBG’s hands-on approach to nurturing young minds. A DBG student since elementary school, Artis’ attitude about schoolwork shifted as he built confidence and gained the belief that he could conquer any challenge with hard work and determination. With a passion for fitness and exploring, his future plans include attending college to pursue aerospace engineering or become a surgeon. 

“DBG helped me learn life skills like self discipline and time management, and helped me develop a strong work ethic,” he says. “More importantly, I learned the value of adaptability and patience. DBG has also provided me with many opportunities to learn about career paths.”

Artis, a Marygrove High School student, serves as a paid DBG junior coach through the city’s Grow Detroit’s Young Talent (GDYT) program, helping to mentor younger students. In addition, DBG helped connect him to an internship with Midnight Golf where he learned skills including resume building, email etiquette and creating a professional portfolio on LinkedIn. As an intern, Artis’s primary responsibilities involved archiving workshop details and taking comprehensive notes on day to day activities. He also actively engaged in networking with fellow students.

Artis participated in several college visits and worked with the DBG team to help better prepare for the SAT exam. He is another one of the four DBG NSF student researchers studying the STEAM Lab. To top it all off, he participated in Future Doctors of America with Michigan State Osteopathic Medical School.

“I like the goal of what we’re doing [in the DBG Steam Lab], which is to get our community in Detroit more immersed in STEAM programs,” Artis said. “It’s important because, for one, they are good paying jobs and good career choices, and there are a lot of spots that need to be filled.” 

“Artis began his DBG journey at age 8,” recalled Laura Amtower, DBG’s director of academics. “At the time, he wasn’t too interested in learning. Over the years, Artis has participated in just about everything DBG has provided including boxing, coding, cooking and mentoring. I can say one thing with certainty, Artis has in fact learned to take his schoolwork seriously. With college acceptances to some of the nation’s top schools, Artis has an incredibly bright future in engineering and I have no doubt he will make great contributions to our community near and far.”

Eric Crossland  

A two-time national chess champion, Eric Crossland has mastered the strategy, concentration and calculated tactics of the complex game. He was introduced to chess on his first day at DBG and Eric found himself instantly drawn to its intricate strategies. During his first year, he would watch coach Khali playing chess with other students, which piqued his curiosity. With practice and hard work, he perfected the skills of the game.

Chess is just one of the many diverse interests Eric pursued during his time at DBG. He also participated in programs that focused on culinary arts, yoga, and coding. Winning a coding workshop at DBG sparked his interest in coding and computer science, leading him to explore these subjects further. Inspired by the possibilities of coding, Eric enrolled himself into computer science and robotics classes, finding not only a creative outlet, but a potential career path. Eric will graduate from Martin Luther King Junior High School and hopes to attend Wayne State University where he envisions studying software engineering and/or computer science. 

Prior to joining DBG, navigating school presented some challenges for Eric. He says his reserved nature made it hard to connect with others.

“I learn life lessons at DBG often. How to be more confident, how to connect with people and most importantly, how to have self-control,” he says. “The difference between having self-control and not having it can really dictate your future.”

These lessons not only refined Eric’s character, they helped him become the active, social, disciplined, and responsible student he is today.

“It’s truly been an honor watching you evolve into the incredible person you are today,” said Asiyah Williamson, DBG’s associate director of enrichment. “Your brilliance is matched only by the kindness that you show to everyone around you. Throughout our time together, your willingness to lend a hand to your peers, whether it’s in workouts, chess matches, or simply being a role model, has truly left a mark in our community. You are a leader, and with the entire DBG community behind you, there’s no limit to what you can achieve.”

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To honor Khali, DBG, and our impact, the KLA Foundation and Art VanElslander Foundation are generously matching $120,000 in donations to DBG.

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