We could not do what we do without our amazing volunteers! This is part of a series of blog posts to spotlight and celebrate the professionals from all over metro Detroit who give of their time and talents to help our students every single day. We are truly thankful for our volunteers and the spirit of community they bring to the Downtown Boxing Gym. Together, we are changing lives and helping make our students’ dreams come true.

Colin Swingler’s first exposure to the Downtown Boxing Gym was through his employer, Detroit Diesel.

Swingler made a donation to the gym and participated in an onsite career day with a colleague, where employees from different divisions of his company spoke to students about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and jobs in accounting, finance and computers.

Swingler, an engineer who works on controls for big semi-truck engines, and his coworker gave a presentation about what they do. They showed the students engine components and photographs from the various places they visit for work, including to the company’s main offices in Portland, OR and Stuttgart, Germany; Grand Forks, ND for cold-weather testing in winter and Las Vegas for hot-weather testing in summer, and Denver for testing at high altitudes.

Seeing the students respond made Swingler, 28, recall how being around adults in professional roles when he was young helped him start thinking seriously about his own future.

“Not everybody knows exactly what happens on a day-to-day basis,” Swingler says. “And seeing the kids get excited about the pictures and the parts, I thought that was really cool, and it made me see the value in getting involved.”

Swingler, who lives in Royal Oak with his wife, signed up as a volunteer. He’s been coming to the gym after work every Wednesday, his busy travel schedule permitting, since late last summer.

He says he arrives, finds students who are working by themselves, and asks whether they need any help. He assists with vocabulary, spelling, and math, whatever the students need, to complete their elementary – high school homework.

“You start to know the kids more and more when you see them every week,” Swingler says. “You start to learn about their strengths and weaknesses, their interests, and what works best for them when it comes to learning.”

The longer he volunteers, the more Colin says he learns about which tutoring tactics work best.

“There’s a selfish aspect to it as well,” he says. “My favorite thing is when I’m explaining a math concept or something, and they get it – it’s personally rewarding. I see a lot of value in it and it’s fun.”

Swingler says volunteering has only strengthened the positive impression he’s always had of the Downtown Boxing Gym.

“We’re actually making a difference,” he says. “There are a lot of charitable programs, and I’m not disparaging them at all… but I feel like this has so much value in that you’re directly helping students in a formative period of their lives. That’s going to build a foundation to help them become successful adults. I’m proud to be part of it.”

The Downtown Boxing Gym depends on committed volunteers like Colin to fulfill our mission. In addition to weekly tutoring and mentoring, we offer opportunities to volunteer during one-time events, and help with building and grounds maintenance and administrative duties. Or tell us how you think you can help! Check out our volunteering page to learn more.