Ever since she was a little girl growing up in Ramallah, Palestine, Aseel Saied ’14 dreamed of studying in the United States. After a year as a high school exchange student in Texas, she knew that attending college in America would benefit her not only academically but allow her to become more independent. It was also important to her to be innovative in the way she resisted the political situation in her homeland, and she chose to do that through education.
Attending Bridgewater College through the Hope Fund helped Saied accomplish yet another dream: to open a health and exercise business in Palestine. Saied majored in nutrition and wellness with a minor in business, and she went on to get a master of sports policy,management and international development from the University of Edinburgh.
“My minor helped me understand the business side of becoming an entrepreneur, and what it takesfor a business to be successfully financially, as well as a catalyst for change in the community it serves,” she said.
Saied and her husband, who once coached the national Palestinian boxing team, opened ElBarrio Gym in February 2016 in Ramallah. The gym seeks to foster talented athletes from around the country with its Boxing Academy for boys and girls ages 6 to 14 and to help its members represent Palestine in international sporting events, from the Olympics to the CrossFit Games.
Classes offered include Olympic weightlifting and adult fitness and boxing, along with female-only fitness classes. Saied believes in strength in community and hopes the gym becomes a place entire families go to ease the pressure of daily life.
“Fitness, sports and exercise have the potential to help people believe in their ability to change their reality,” she said.
Opening her own gym taught Saied that she is detail-oriented but that “a margin of error needs to exist in order for a business to grow.”
“It taught me that dreaming big is never underrated, and that if you believe in creating change you can reach that with the right vision, at the right time, with the right group of people,” she said.