(WJBK) - The Downtown Boxing Gym in Detroit is changing lives every day by giving kids a safe place to learn and play after school. A $500,000 grant is helping it expand its reach to even more local kids.
Jessica Hauser, executive director of the Downtown Boxing Gym, says learning to box can actually help a kid graduate high school, if they're willing to try.
"Boxing is truly just the hook to get them in the door," she says.
The Downtown Boxing Gym has been around Detroit since 2007. But times were tough.
"We moved from a building that had been condemned to this beautiful building," Hauser said.
The building is on Verner near Eastern market and they've been there since 2015, providing after school programs for kids 8 to 18, who come from 30 ZIP codes, and 57 schools across metro Detroit.
"Nobody's going to make fun of you if you're going to a boxing gym but if you're going to an academic program you might get teased, or might not go," Hauser said.
Before the kids get boxing they have to go to the classroom. The focus is on literacy and math and for kids to improve their grades in those subjects by two grades. The success is proof it works: 100% of the nearly 150 kids graduate from high school.
The program is 100% free.
"Without the community behind us, we wouldn't be in here," Hauser said.
This 501(c)(3) corporation has received support in the past from the likes of Madonna and Eminem. And now, this month, the largest grant ever for this group- a $500,000 grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation.
The Downtown Boxing Gym has over 850 people on their waiting list. So even when they get the $500,000, they could still use more to help for even more kids.
"We know each kid and we figure out an academic plan for that kid,"
To learn more about the downtown boxing gym, and to help, check out their site here.