Mentor of the Year - Khali Sweeney


Khali Sweeney founded the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program to provide a free, after school academic and athletic program for Detroit students to help them avoid the challenges he faced when he was young. Khali grew up in a tough Detroit neighborhood. He was passed from grade to grade without learning to read and failed to complete high school. He took to the streets and lived a destructive lifestyle until an older brother pointed out that all his friends were either in jail or deceased. Khali decided to make a change. He taught himself to read and worked tirelessly at tough jobs until he had saved up enough money to start the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program in 2007. He wanted to mentor youth and show them how to make positive choices. “It took me 20 years to climb out of that hole, and when I climbed out I saw a line as far as the eye can see of kids ready to fall in the same hole,” Khali said. “What kind of man would I be if I let them fall in that hole without trying to warn them?” To participate in the boxing program, students learn “books before boxing” and volunteer in the community. Students have access to tutoring, college and career readiness workshops and free healthy meals and snacks. The program has had a 100 percent high school graduation rate during the last 10 years with many participants attending college and pursuing their dreams. The program has grown and thrived and currently has an 850-child waiting list. Khali won’t stop serving until every student on the list has been reached. “Khali is a true inspiration and an example of how one person can make a lasting and significant impact on their community,” said Matthew Roling, CEO of Boost Up