Two new faces have joined the Downtown Boxing Gym team. We’re delighted to welcome Maude Davis and Dimitar Jakimovski who will work with our program for the next year, courtesy of the AmeriCorps VISTA program.

Both bring different skill sets and backgrounds to their full-time jobs at the gym, but they share a deep commitment to giving back.

AmeriCorps VISTA stands for “Volunteers in Service to America,” and involves serving for 12 months in exchange for a living allowance and a choice, once their tenures are completed, of either an education award to cover educational expenses or an $1,800 cash stipend.

Davis, who is 50, has an extensive background working in grant writing and community development with nonprofits including the NAACP, Eastside Community Policing Partnership, Warren/Conner Development Coalition and Washtenaw Community College.

“I’ve worked 30-plus years, so I’ve put in my time,” she said. “I didn’t want to be a stay-at-home mom. I wanted to get out and make a difference.”

Davis, who lives in Oak Park, has two daughters in their 20s. She has bachelor’s degrees in political science and gender studies from Central Michigan University and received her master’s in public administration from the University of Michigan in 2015. She is the 13th of 14 children in her family.

At the gym, she’ll be splitting her time equally between coordinating volunteers for academic programs and doing grant writing.

So far, she says she’s been enjoying getting to know our students and hearing about their concerns, goals, and dreams, and how they want to use the gym to help make career choices.

“I absolutely love it,” Davis says. “Just to see the kindness and patience of everyone in the organization working with the students hands-on.”

Jakimovski, graduated from U-M in May with a degree in history and religion. Like Davis, he’ll be splitting his time at the gym between mentoring in the classrooms and helping students learn about college and career options.

“As a fellow first-generation college student, that’s a big thing to learn about,” he says.

Jakimovski is the son of immigrants who fled Macedonia during the beginning of the Balkan wars in the 1990s and settled in Mount Clemens. His father, who served in the Macedonian army, now works in a factory, while his mother is a makeup artist.

“My parents are both immigrants who raised my brother and me to be patriots,” Jakimovski says. “I’ve always wanted to serve the nation in some capacity, and I was thinking of serving in the Navy after graduation, but I decided my talents would be better served working for a nonprofit. I’m so happy to be working with the students at the Downtown Boxing Gym.”

The 22 year-old plans to use the education stipend at the end of his year with the DBG to obtain a master’s degree in public policy. Long-term, he wants to start his own nonprofit focused on students and education.

“The things we’re doing here [at DBG] are inspiring,” he says. “I’m still in awe every day when I walk into this gym.”

Welcome, Maude and Dimitar, to the Downtown Boxing Gym family. We’re excited to have you on onboard!