DBG Recognized for Impact, Awarded Historic Gift from MacKenzie Scott’s ‘Open Call’

For the third time in less than a year, the Downtown Boxing Gym is receiving national recognition and support for our impactful work to help young people succeed and achieve their dreams. Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott’s Yield Giving Open Call is the latest to recognize DBG as a national youth development leader, along with the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Library of Congress. 

Launched in March 2023, Scott’s Yield Giving Open Call for grants focused on elevating organizations working with people and in places experiencing the greatest need in the United States. DBG was selected to receive a gift from among 6,353 applicants in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

Initially, Scott’s team planned to award 250 gifts of $1 million each. Following a rigorous evaluation process, the team decided to give a mix of $1 million and $2 million gifts. DBG was selected for a maximum award of $2 million because we scored among the highest impact organizations in America, advancing the voices and opportunities of those facing systemic barriers. 

“We are grateful to MacKenzie Scott and her team for this significant national recognition and funding to support our work,” said Khali Sweeney, founder and CEO of the Downtown Boxing Gym. “The funding will advance our efforts to expand, grow, and serve more students locally and nationally – to help meet the tremendous need for our proven methods and support. This award also sends a clear message to our students and families that a major national funder is in their corner. Our students are the true CEOs of our organization. Everything we do and every decision we make is for them.”

Founded by Sweeney in 2007, DBG addresses the complex needs of Detroit’s underserved student population and the systemic issues affecting the city’s youth. The award-winning, out-of-school-time program removes barriers and helps students succeed through transformative mentorship and individualized plans that address each student’s unique academic, physical, and social-emotional needs. Students help drive programming decisions and are inspired to set goals, advocate for themselves, and create positive change in their communities.

Every weekday, all year round, DBG serves young people ages 8-18 with continuing support to alumni through postsecondary education and into adulthood. DBG’s reach expands outward into local communities, creating a ripple effect that reaches families, neighborhoods, cities, and beyond. Scott’s team gave DBG high marks for improving the well-being of individuals and families, having a lengthy and proven track record, capacity for growth, authentic leadership that reflects the community, clear pathways for community members to influence and shape decisions, and more.

“This support is critical, and it will help change lives for generations to come,” said Jessica Hauser, DBG’s executive director. “We have been working for years to scale our program in a strategic and intentional way that recognizes the importance of addressing each child’s individual needs. We thank MacKenzie Scott and her team for helping us move our mission forward with such a meaningful gift.”

DBG measures success in a variety of ways. Our program has had a 100% high school graduation rate for 17 straight years. 98% of students go on to attend college or another form of career training. Most importantly, DBG students score higher than their peers nationally in significant markers for future success including self-efficacy, or the belief they can succeed; adaptability, or the ability to apply and adjust skills in a difficult setting; and a sense of agency, the belief they can make positive changes in their community. 

DBG is in the process of raising enough funds to expand our Detroit campus, double capacity, and increase the enrollment of students. We have a shovel-ready project in the works for a new three-story, 22,000-square-foot building on the campus footprint that will include a new STEAM Lab, community space, and DBG Academy for out-of-market partners implementing the DBG methodology in their programs. The more than 2,000 students on our current waiting list provide a small window into the true demand in Detroit and beyond. DBG is working tirelessly to accelerate our impact and scale support.

The MacKenzie Scott gift comes at a time when the National Science Foundation is supporting a 5-year collaborative study with Purdue University to research DBG’s voluntary STEAM Lab program which has a 98% opt-in rate and increases students’ ability to see a career path for themselves in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. 90% of DBG graduates go on to pursue STEM careers. DBG was also recently awarded The American Prize by the U.S. Library of Congress for making a measurable impact in increasing literacy levels in the United States. DBG students participating in one-on-one literacy intervention average an increase of 5.5 reading levels per year.

More information on the Yield Giving Open Call and other initiatives can be found at leverforchange.org.