DETROIT -- Angela Reyes is the Executive Director and Founder of the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation, a community-based organization that has made a tremendous impact in the Latino community in Detroit since 1997.
And because of her tireless efforts, Reyes has been named the second Hispanic Heritage Month Game Changers honoree.
The Game Changers series has previously honored individuals for Women's History Month, Black History Month, Pride Month and Disability Pride Month. The Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers and Comerica Bank are now excited to highlight individuals making an impact in the Latino community in Detroit, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.
"The Red Wings and Tigers have a rich history of supporting our local Hispanic and Latinx communities," said Red Wings and Tigers director of community impact Kevin Brown. "Together with Comerica Bank, we're proud to honor leaders throughout Hispanic Heritage Month who are positively impacting youth in Detroit."
Reyes, a native of Southwest Detroit, had been working with youth in the community since she was a teenager, herself. Through her involvement, she saw a need and stepped up to find a solution.
"I was tired of burying children," Reyes said. "I had been working with a lot of young people who were dropping out of school or involved in gangs. Especially in the 90s, there was a really high level of violence in our community and a lot of the kids were ending up dead through violence or through substance abuse."
Reyes founded the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation to not only help those in the community, but also to figure out a way to create something to make a deeper impact on young people and change the trajectory of their lives.
"The DHDC started with the adults who were the leaders of several gangs and was able to help with the negotiation of the truce so that they could get out of the gangs and get jobs," Reyes said.
From there, Reyes gained a deeper understanding of what young people really need in the community, which is the foundation of the DHDC. The organization is built around things the youth have expressed that they need to make real change.
"Being able to provide support for their parents, for their younger siblings and education of course, is really key," Reyes said. "Providing social emotional support and then working to address some of the systemic issues in the community so we can change the conditions that are leading to some of the issues that are our families and young people are dealing with."
Reyes and the DHDC have programs and initiatives targeted toward youth, adults and the community as a whole. The youth programs serve those 5-24 years old and incorporate culturally based healing practices. Additionally, the youth programs at the DHDC focus on team activities, with an emphasis on technology and the arts with the goal of post-secondary education.
"The adult services are focused on supporting the families in being able to increase their own wealth and stability," Reyes said. "We have things like tattoo removal for people coming home from prison, parenting classes, adult education and housing counseling."
The DHDC also focuses on community organizing and advocacy to address issues within the community at the root.
This three-pronged approach is why there has been massive transformation over the last 25 years within the Detroit Latino community. With the help of Reyes and the DHDC, the level of violence has decreased significantly, and the Latino community has grown and thrived over the last decade.
"We have gone from focusing on young people in gangs and trying to keep them alive to now going to graduations instead of funerals," Reyes said. "We have a lot young people who are graduating from school who are going into post-secondary education. We have several that have graduated that are now studying to be engineers. So it really has changed the level of violence in our community dramatically."
Reyes' incredible work extends beyond the DHDC. She is an alumnus of the University of Michigan where she received her Master's in Public Health. Reyes has spoken on national and international stages regarding cultural awareness, youth gangs and violence, substance abuse, immigration, educational reform, community-based participatory research, policy development and community organizing.
Reyes said the recognition by the Red Wings and Tigers is definitely special, but she was quick to give kudos to her entire team, expressing gratitude for all the work they do.
"It's always awesome to be recognized for the work, especially because it's not just me, it's my awesome team," Reyes said. "People don't often get acknowledged for the work they do, and it also helps to get the word out on the work we are doing."
Video: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month
The goal of the DHDC is to create self-determination in individuals and in the entire community, and the mission is to make a difference by creating life-changing opportunities for Detroit Latino youth and their families.
"For more than 20 years, Angela Reyes and her team at the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation have been making a difference in the lives of local youth and their families in the city," Brown said. "Through innovative approaches to serving our community, Angela's care for each child provides an immeasurable impact on thousands of individuals each year."
To get involved or to learn more about Reyes and the DHDC, visit DHDC1.org.