After nearly a decade running an IT startup in Berlin, Germany and traveling throughout Europe, Maurizio Graubner says he had a nagging feeling there might be something else out there for him. He found that “something” as a volunteer at the Downtown Boxing Gym, where he taps into his passions for athletics and educating children every day.
Graubner, 31, is visiting Detroit on a 90-day tourist visa and is the Downtown Boxing Gym’s first international volunteer. He’s been working five days a week with DBG apprentice, Kadeem Anderson, to set up new athletic programs and opportunities for our students.
“Right from the beginning, when I did my research, the Downtown Boxing Gym stood out,” he says. “It was the favorite program for me. The minute I learned about it, I really wanted to visit.”
Graubner first got involved with the sport of boxing in Berlin to counterbalance the stresses of work and it quickly became a passion. He underwent training at gyms in Spain and Portugal. He was excited to learn how DBG uses boxing as a hook for our education-focused books before boxing program.
“I can see how kids get a better connection to their body through boxing,” he says. “They walk with their heads straight up and they learn how to be successful in life, because you have to be disciplined and you have to be serious about your career and your education.”
After leaving the company he co-founded with a friend and traveling for more than a year, Graubner began researching opportunities and programs where he could offer his background and expertise. He contacted DBG in early January via email and then via Skype to arrange his volunteering trip.
“I think DBG puts the biggest emphasis on education out of all the groups I encountered,” he says. “In other places, they sometimes have a tutor or someone to help with schoolwork, but here, academics, literacy and math intervention and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) programming are a daily focus.”
During his time at DBG, Graubner has helped introduce new physical activities that enable students to burn off some steam after they finish their homework and also have fun. Examples include bridge tag and hunter ball, which is played in a big circle and resembles dodge ball.
When he’s not volunteering at the gym, Graubner is usually at the Airbnb where he’s staying nearby with other long-term guests from Japan, Colombia and Germany. His favorite activities in Detroit include visiting Sister Pie for some sweets, catching a Tigers game, or exploring the city by bike.
Maurizio believes Detroit shares a lot in common with Berlin, which rebuilt itself following World War II, and also embraces things like public arts, urban gardens and techno music.
“I’m really enjoying my time in Detroit and at the Downtown Boxing Gym,” he says. “It’s the perfect place for me at the moment. I will bring back a lot of inspiration and good memories, for sure. And who knows, maybe volunteering is helping me figure out what I want to do next. Maybe Berlin also needs a place like the Downtown Boxing Gym? We will see.”
Thank you, Maurizio, for bringing your energy, enthusiasm and desire to make a difference all the way from Berlin to our boxing gym!