If it weren’t for the pandemic, Jason Bass might not have come to UM-Dearborn. The 48-year-old business student is busy enough running his own security alarm company, and he is the founder and executive director of the Dearborn Basketball Association, a nonprofit that teaches athletics and life skills to youth from elementary through high school. But bored at home once Covid hit, the Pittsburgh area native and Detroit Cody High School grad decided attaining his bachelor’s degree finally made sense. “I thought it would help grow my business,” he says. The active father of five also had a secondary reason: “I was bored out of my mind.”
Family is at the root
A Dearborn resident for nearly two decades, Jason founded the DBA in 2012, after volunteering with a PTA-run intramural basketball program based at Dearborn’s Long Elementary. He soon forged a partnership with the Dearborn Recreation Department, and the organization now serves 1,000 youth annually, with a range of programs, including camps, a travel team, and winter, spring and summer leagues. Jason, who only gets paid for running camps, enjoys being able to inspire enthusiasm in young people while teaching the game that he loves. He believes that sports can be used to improve social issues within our communities. He also knows basketball can help kids weather hard times – it helped him get through his parents’ divorce.
Family is at the heart of all Jason does. He is a devoted husband to wife MIko, a nurse, and the father of Justin, Mariah, Morgan, Mila, and Mya, who range in age from 11 to 32. The importance of family influences the way Jason thinks about the role of business. Observed Helet Botha, a UM-Dearborn assistant professor of business policy and strategy: “One of the most striking moments in any of the discussions I've thus far facilitated between students at UM-Dearborn, he made the case that business's relationship to society should be understood through the metaphor of parenthood. Big business should act as a caretaker of society -- it should adopt a nurturing attitude towards the communities it operates in.”
Nurturing his community
Among Jason’s accomplishments with the DBA, he:
- Partnered with the Detroit Pistons of the NBA to become a Pistons Academy Basketball League.
- Partnered with the Dearborn Recreation Department and Dearborn Public Schools to implement programs such as Basketball and Books, a free program that offers children basketball instruction and tutoring by a certified teacher
- Secures more than $20,000 each year from local businesses to fund low-cost programs, budgeting and branding of the nonprofit within the community
- Mentors players to become future coaches and leaders in the community
“I feel like I’m the guy who just puts the puzzle together, but I have the right pieces,” Jason says. “It’s really about the community of Dearborn because they fully support the program. I want the DBA to be a safe place where every kid feels welcomed regardless of their race, color, religion, family situation or level of skill and passion for the game of basketball. What could be a better place in today’s world?”
A higher-profile organization once tried to recruit him, but ultimately, Jason decided the grassroots program he started remained the right place for him to be. He later wrote about this dilemma in one of Botha’s classes. After he graduates with his bachelor’s in business administration, he plans to continue running both his alarm business and the nonprofit–for a while. He also wants to use his experience and education to help other entrepreneurs reach their goals. In a year or two, he says, it may be time for him to assume a different role at DBA and let some younger volunteers step up. He hopes to raise the funds to turn them into employees and expand the organization. And school, that thing he did because he was bored? The allure has not yet worn off. He is considering staying at UM-Dearborn to complete his MBA.