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Empowerment with Element Gym and YWCA

What started as a cold call to Element from YWCA St. Paul’s new Executive Director Ashley Booker, just weeks after joining the team, soon became an exciting opportunity to work together. Booker had been searching for other community organizations in the health and fitness space that cared about racial justice, equity, and BIPOC health outcomes… and Dalton Outlaw’s name was mentioned over and over.  

Outlaw and Booker soon realized that their organizations were even more mission-aligned than they’d realized. “We’re both born and raised St. Paul kids,” Booker said. “Both of us are so passionate about taking care of the city that raised us.” Soon, the YWCA and Element began working together on improving the Health & Fitness Center, as well as an event for Black History month and a future fundraising event that will benefit the YWCA. 

"We're both born and raised St. Paul kids. Both of us are so passionate about taking care of the city that raised us."
- Ashley Booker
Executive Director of YWCA St. Paul

Both organizations’ commitment to health equity, along with their complementary strengths, makes for a great partnership. The decision was made to bring Element to YWCA—a move that has already proven to be very mutually beneficial. YWCA was in need of more culturally responsive programming that could help BIPOC community members feel more welcome, and see themselves represented in fitness staff at YWCA.  

To Dalton Outlaw, founder of Element, what’s most important is the positive impact his gym makes. “I was a professional boxer while opening the gym,” he shared. “But I gave up the dream to be the best in the world. Instead, I want to be the best FOR the world.” The decision to partner with YWCA St. Paul was an easy one. Outlaw has devoted his life to making fitness and empowerment accessible to everyone. The social enterprise he’s created has impacted so much of our surrounding community already. Now, together, the future is even brighter.  

“We love how welcoming the members of the Health & Fitness Center have been,” added Dalton Outlaw, owner of Element Gym. “It’s been exciting to see members trying out our classes, loving them, and then recruiting their friends to join in!”

"I was a professional boxer while opening the gym. But I gave up the dream to be the best in the world. Instead, I want to be the best FOR the world."
- Dalton Outlaw
Founder of Element Gym
Left to right - St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, YWCA St. Paul CEO Ashley Booker, Element Gym owner Dalton Outlaw, and Mayor Carter's father, Melvin Carter, Jr.

The 30 additional class offerings that Element brought to YWCA St. Paul provide a wealth of new possibilities to gym members. Overwhelmingly positive feedback from fitness members, YWCA staff and board, Element staff and members, and the surrounding community has since poured in. “What I hear about often is the great shift in energy around here,” said Booker. “You can feel the buzz of excitement as our two cultures merge. Two wellness and equity-focused fitness communities have come together and are excited to get to know each other.” 

Element’s move to YWCA means so much more than what people might expect. “90% of the people who take our classes use boxing as a tool,” said Outlaw. “It’s a method of exercise and a meaningful way to improve your self-esteem and confidence. You can move your body and relieve stress. You can help fight Parkinson’s Disease. This is an outlet for people.”   

“This is social innovation,” said Outlaw. “We are two Black leaders and visionaries that have blended our work to provide more opportunities for each of our organizations. Where we go next is greatness.”

“People are dreaming now,” Booker added. “This move has opened the floodgates for people to think about the bright future ahead.” Together, YWCA St. Paul and Element Gym look forward to tackling their shared mission of eliminating racism and empowering women. 

About YWCA St. Paul YWCA St. Paul is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. For more information, visit