When I had the opportunity to spend time at HYPE Athletics Community this spring during their Jurassic Journey Dinosaur exhibit, I was struck by what a wonderful environment it was. Everyone seemed to know each other, and yet even as an outsider, everyone was overwhelmingly kind and welcoming to me. Having spent over a decade building such a community, founder Ali Sayed says that HYPE is intended to be, in it’s most basic function, a welcoming safe haven for the youth of Wayne county.
More specifically the non-profit organization provides athletic and social services, and is aimed at breaking barriers and strengthening the development of youth in the area. In the past two years, HYPE has broken ground on a facility in Dearborn Heights that includes five basketball/volleyball courts , both co-ed and women’s only weight training rooms, an indoor track, a computer lab, library, two classrooms, and more. The impressive facility is only one part of HYPE, as they also continue to operate in many off-site locations, thus allowing those who would be unable to travel to the rec center the opportunity to benefit from HYPE programs.
It all started in 2001 with Sayed (a teenager then) and his friends wanting to host a 3-on-3 basketball tournament that would bring together and break barriers between their culturally diverse East and West Dearborn friends in a drug- and violence-free environment. They expected maybe a few dozen teams to get involved. Hundreds of teams ended up at the tournament (so many, in fact, that Sayed and his team had to forgo playing in order to run the event).
What was, during that first year, just a tournament and basketball camps for local youth, has now grown to service nearly an entire county, providing programs for youth all the way from Detroit’s East side to the Plymouth/Canton area. Though HYPE began to grow not long after 2001, Sayed points to 2006 as the true turning point for the program.
He says that this pivotal moment was when he spent nearly a full year researching his community, assessing what programs were available, evaluating the organizations providing similar services to what he intended HYPE to provide, and identifying needs that were yet to be met. That year, Sayed says, allowed him to identify the scope of service HYPE could provide and create the base objectives from which to grow.
In that same year, a substance abuse awareness and prevention program was developed and implemented at HYPE. The program was aimed to provide a means of diversion (not intervention) through early education and understanding. HYPE continues this program today, along with mentoring, tutoring, and various educational camps and programs.
This growth has been facilitated by not only the hard work of Sayed and his staff (some of whom have been with him since 2001), but also by several grants. After receiving the first grant in 2008, Sayed applied for another grant of overwhelming size in 2010 that would allow them to build a centralized facility, which they were awarded. Construction began on the recreation center in 2011, and continues now; though the facility is impressive as is, the current plans include the addition of a pool and several expansions to the existing gym.
While the range of programs offered by HYPE is already massive, guaranteeing that there is something for everyone, Sayed says there are plans to expand these, as well as the size of the rec center. He points out that September will see the addition of yet another academic program, this one focused on developing math and computer skills; HYPE will also soon provide the incredibly popular Crossfit training, along with adding obesity intervention and education to the repertoire.
Check out all of the programs offered by HYPE and, if you can, stop in and check out the awesome facility in Dearborn Heights–you will absolutely leave with the desire to visit again. And be sure to like HYPE Athletics Community on Facebook and follow HYPE on Twitter!