Founder and CEO
Khali had the passion, determination and bold vision to open DBG in 2007 and as our founder and CEO, he continues to mentor, inspire, innovate, and shape our program to this day. His life’s purpose is helping young people succeed. Khali’s unwavering commitment to our students, our mission, and making the world a better place, helps drive every decision we make. Khali’s own challenging academic and life experiences inspired him to start our program. Among his many honors, Khali is a CNN Hero Top 10 Finalist and a recipient of Michigan’s Governor’s Service Award for Mentor of the Year.
As he often says, “We don’t see bad kids. We see kids who haven’t been heard yet.”
Grants help DBG raise the funds needed to operate. DeAnna works with our development team to research and write grant applications. DeAnna received an English degree from Howard University and a master’s in English from the University of North Dakota. She currently attends Wayne State University where she is working toward a Ph.D. in English. DeAnna has taught English composition, community writing, African American Literature and Culture, and gender studies courses at the college level. She is most inspired by the warm family atmosphere at DBG and the close relationships she has developed with students and staff.
DONOR EXPERIENCE MANAGER
Nick is responsible for the strategic engagement and stewardship of DBG’s existing individual donors. He also cultivates new donors while managing facility rentals, events, and donation data. In addition, Nick assists with marketing and external communications to
key constituents. Prior to joining DBG, Nick served as a financial advisor at Plante Moran and assistant director at the University of Michigan Athletic Department. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Wayne State University. “I’m most inspired by students who overcome challenging circumstances to graduate from high school and thrive,” he says.
Communications & PR Consultant
Robin serves as DBG’s chief storyteller, overseeing all aspects of communications, including PR/media relations, social media, writing, blogs and web content, video production and more. Robin is an Emmy award–winning former TV news anchor/reporter with Fox 2 News in Detroit. She also previously served as a corporate PR executive. Robin has a passion for Detroit, seeing Detroit students succeed, DBG, and the ongoing story of our efforts to change lives and help young people thrive. She owns her own PR and video production firm, Robin Schwartz PR. Members of the media can send inquiries to [email protected].
human resources director
TRANSPORTATION & ENROLLMENT COORDINATOR
APPRENTICE TO THE CEO, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS
As a DBG alum and proud graduate, Asiyah has personally experienced the benefits of DBG’s mission. She oversees all aspects of our athletic department and aims to expose our students to sport sampling and various different forms of physical activity. As an apprentice to our founder and CEO Khali Sweeney, she is learning the ins and outs of what it takes to run a successful nonprofit, grow the program, and keep our mission alive for generations to come. Before joining DBG, Asiyah renovated properties in Detroit through the Detroit Landbank and worked in the mortgage industry.
ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, ACADEMICS
NICOLLE HALL JOHNSON
Associate Director, Academics
HEALTH AND WELLNESS MANAGER
“My grandmother who raised me was a chef,” Shaquanna says. And that’s one of the many reasons she’s a perfect fit as DBG’s health and wellness manager. Shaquanna prepares and serves nutritious meals for our students every day. She also plans and oversees weekly menus, develops and facilitates educational programs around nutrition, ensures that all student dietary requirements are accommodated appropriately, works with our transportation coordinator to ensure weekly food deliveries and pickups, manages kitchen staff, mentors students, and so much more. Shquanna holds a Food Safety Manager Certification and has lifelong experience in the culinary industry.
ACADEMIC SUPPORT SPECIALIST
High School Coordinator, College and Career Readiness
Helping DBG students prepare for college, careers and beyond is Brittany’s focus at DBG. She develops and maintains our college and career readiness program and organizes career days, field trips, internships and more. She also meets with our high school students to develop educational development plans. Brittany is a graduate of Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She is working on additional certifications in nutrition, personal training, sports counseling, and athletic administration. She has previously worked with students to increase post secondary success in a variety of roles.
ACADEMIC SUPPORT SPECIALIST
STEAM LAB COORDINATOR
Clay is DBG’s go-to guru on science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM.) He runs our STEAM Lab, one of DBG’s key enrichment programs, and exposes students to innovative concepts, opportunities and people in the sciences and arts. Clay works to inspire students with hands-on projects and equip them with the skills to pursue STEAM careers. He is a graduate of Oberlin College and worked for years as a tutor, caretaker and board member at a grassroots Detroit community center before joining the DBG team. “I’m most inspired by the endless possibilities of our program,” he says.
ACADEMIC SUPPORT SPECIALIST
DIANE McKINNEY-EL BEY
ACADEMIC SUPPORT ASSISTANT
PROGRAMS TEAM ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
ACADEMIC SUPPORT SPECIALIST
PROGRAMS DATA COORDINATOR
Ensuring students have the support they need to read at or above grade level is one of the hallmarks of DBG’s academic program. Skylar helps facilitate our partnership with Center for Success to provide literacy programming for DBG’s 3rd through 6th graders. She also supports data collection and applications. Skylar is a graduate of the University of Michigan and worked for years coaching and teaching writing. “Working at DBG is inspiring when I see students deepen their connection to reading and writing, and in return, learn more about themselves and the world we live in,” she says.
2021-2022 Board of Directors
Joe Schmidt is a Deals Senior Manager at PwC. With a background in both transaction services and external audit, Joe has provided a variety of services for both public and private companies. As a member of the Deals team, he has worked on a variety of projects across industry sectors, company size and geographies. Joe is a Certified Public Accountant in the State of Michigan and received his bachelor’s degree in Economics and Management with an emphasis in accounting from Albion College. As an individual with a passion for athletics and continued learning, Joe strongly believes in the mission and community built at DBG. Joe has been actively involved with the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program since 2017
Gary Wilson is a Senior Vice President of JPMorgan Chase & Co. In this role, he oversees all volunteerism for the firm in the state of Michigan. Gary is based in Birmingham and also serves as an ambassador for the firm locally, engaging the business and nonprofit community to showcase JPMorgan Chase’s civic engagement. Gary also serves on an advisory panel for the mayor’s office with the City of Detroit. Gary resides in Commerce Township, MI with his son Logan. Gary holds a degree from the University of Detroit Mercy.
Michael Perkins is a Partner Liaison for iHeartMedia’s BIN: Black Information Network, the first and only 24/7 national and local all-news audio service dedicated to providing an objective, accurate and trusted source of continual news coverage with a Black voice and perspective. Michael is responsible for creating partnerships with companies locally and nationally providing them access to all of iheartmedia’s many different media assets and platforms in addition to the black information network. Michael Perkins joins iHeartMedia Detroit from WDET FM, Detroit’s NPR station, where he served as a senior sales rep and sales manager for close to 15 years. He is an undergraduate of alma college and has an MBA from University of Detroit.
Shawn has 20 years of experience in wealth management. As an investment advisor with Plante Moran Financial Advisors, he works with high-net-worth individuals and families to help manage and grow their wealth. Through utilizing resources in the firm’s trust and tax departments, Shawn provides comprehensive strategies to manage a family’s full balance sheet. Many of his clients have significant charitable goals where Shawn assists with structuring gifts in a tax-efficient manner.
Shawn was introduced to the Detroit Boxing Gym (DBG) through a stand-up paddleboard race on Belle Isle where he taught some students how to paddleboard. He immediately recognized the impact DBG had on students’ lives and has supported the program since 2017.
Plez Williams is a mortgage banking and real estate professional with more than 25 years of experience. He currently serves as First Vice President at Flagstar Bank where he has worked since 2003. In his current role, Mr. Williams is an operations manager in the mortgage fulfillment department. His primary responsibilities include quality assurance and problem resolution. Prior to his work at Flagstar, he was a licensed real estate agent, serving the Detroit metropolitan area. As a native Detroiter, Plez is passionate about making an impact in the Black community and has been a participant in several grassroots community organizations. Plez received a Master of Science in Finance from Walsh College, and a Bachelor of Science from Eastern Michigan University where he began his collegiate studies after receiving a full athletic scholarship to play football. Married with two sons, he and his family reside in metropolitan Detroit.
JJ Vélez is the Director of Public Spaces for Gilbert Family Foundation. He previously served two years as the Deputy Director for Parks & Recreation with the City of Detroit. Prior to joining the City of Detroit, Vélez was the Assistant Director of Special and Summer Programs at Cranbrook Schools, providing oversight for aftercare, enrichments, and private music lessons.
JJ comes to his work with unbridled enthusiasm and positive energy, knowing full-well the critical importance of robust community engagement and responsible partnerships to drive inclusive and equitable access to public spaces. He is currently on the boards of the Chandler Park Conservancy, Brilliant Detroit, Belle Isle Conservancy and lives in Detroit’s historic Indian Village neighborhood with his wife and two kids, two dogs, and cat.
2021-2022 Advisory Board
John C. Carter
John C. Carter has worked for 35+ years in commercial banking for JPMorgan Chase and predecessor organizations, serving as a manager or executive in charge of various lending and corporate banking groups which provide operating and capital raising services/products to corporate clients. He serves on various internal bank committees and has involvement in several outside organizations, as either member or director: YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit (Director and Past Chairman of Board), YMCA Foundation (Director), Forgotten Harvest (Board and Executive Committee Member), Judson Center (Past Chairman of the Board and Trustee), Judson Center Foundation (Director), Business Leaders of Michigan (Director), Detroit Chamber of Commerce (Director), Detroit Historical Society (Director), Downtown Detroit Partnership (Director), Detroit Riverfront Conservancy (Director), Detroit Economic Club (Director), and Detroit Workforce Development Board.
Dr. Farshad Fotouh
Dr. Farshad Fotouhi is currently Dean of the College of Engineering at Wayne State University. He received his Ph.D. in computer science from Michigan State University, College of Engineering in 1988 and joined the faculty of computer science at Wayne State University in August 1988. He served as the department chair from January 2004-February 2011. Before joining WSU in 1988, he was a faculty member of the Lyman Briggs School, Michigan State University, while earning his Ph.D.
Dr. Fotouhi’s current research interests include biomedical informatics, semantic web and multimedia systems. He has published over 180 papers in refereed journals and conference proceedings. His research has been supported by NSF, NIH, National Institute of Drug Abuse, Michigan Life Sciences Corridor, Ford Motor Company and many other industries.
Jennifer Hammond is a beloved television sports anchor/reporter at Fox 2 News in Detroit. For more than two decades she has covered the Detroit Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons along with Michigan and Michigan State sports.
Among the many things she does to support the Downtown Boxing Gym, Jennifer hosts an annual fundraiser called “Hammer’s Bar Stars.” This high-energy event includes local athletes and celebrities serving as bartenders, helping to raise dollars and awareness about our Books Before Boxing program.
Jody Kohner is the Executive Vice President of Global Enablement at Salesforce. In this role, Jody inspires a culture of learning at every level of the company. She and her team build world-class learning experiences that are relevant, actionable, measurable and predictable; enabling all employees to pursue their own growth and ultimately fuel the growth of the company.
Jody started with Salesforce in 2011 and is proud of the diverse and eclectic journey that she’s taken with the company, which includes leadership across Product Marketing, Human Resources and Sales.
Jody has established a track record of developing innovative new programs and building high-performing teams. Prior to Salesforce, she spent 10 years at Robert Half International, where she worked in brand marketing. She also oversaw the development, implementation and management of the company’s first marketing automation system.
Bruce Nyberg joined Flagstar Bank’s board in March 2015, after serving as interim director of Community Banking. As a board member, he serves on the company’s risk committee.
Prior to Flagstar, he was regional president-East Michigan for Huntington Bancshares Incorporated for six years. He had a 28-year career at NBD Bancorp (now Chase Bank), where he led Michigan Commercial Banking, Retail Banking Operations, Marketing, Information Technology, and Electronic Banking. Among his board memberships are the Bowling Green State University Board of Trustees, Forgotten Harvest, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, and the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion
Jennifer Miller Oertel
Jennifer Miller Oertel is a member of the law firm Bodman, PLC, where she co-chairs the firm’s Tax-exempt Organizations and Impact Investing practice group. Jennifer chairs the Nonprofit Corporations Committee of the State Bar of Michigan (Business Law Section) and is certified in nonprofit governance by Georgetown University. Jennifer utilizes her corporate & securities law and governance skills to serve tax-exempt clients, impact investors and social entrepreneurs in all aspects of their activities. She is the first-ever Impact Investing Expert in Residence for the Council of MI Foundations, working on developing and furthering the impact investing ecosystem in Michigan and beyond.
John Owens held Senior Management positions in Marketing and Communications with major Midwest financial institutions. He was privileged to complement his career experience with an “encore” stint as a Director of Communications at Forgotten Harvest, a metro Detroit human services organization.
He is involved in his local community as a Precinct Delegate in Bloomfield Township.
Stephen Luigi Piazza
Matthew Roling is a professor and chair of Wayne State University’s Accounting Department. Prior to joining Wayne State, Matthew worked in a variety of management consulting and entrepreneurial roles – most recently serving as the CEO of a venture-backed financial technology start-up. A CPA and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Matthew loves to cook, travel and read in his free time.