Students involved in Middletown’s Green Street
Arts Center After School Program look up to Wesleyan University’s basketball
team in more ways than one.
“They always tell me that I’m so tall!” exclaims Gabe Gonzalez-Kreisberg, a
6-ft. 8-inch tall Wesleyan freshman, recalling how students he helps tutor
at the center, like 7-year-old J.J., describe him.
Gonzalez-Kreisberg recently helped launch an ongoing tutoring volunteer
initiative at Green Street Arts Center with Wesleyan University’s basketball
The idea first occurred to Gonzalez-Kreisberg after Wesleyan basketball
coach Gerry McDowell encouraged his team to volunteer in the Middletown area
during their winter break from classes.
Gonzalez-Kreisberg remembered an e-mail he received from Wesleyan’s
community service office calling for tutors at Green Street’s After School
Program. He then mentioned the program to Coach McDowell and the entire team
immediately agreed to help.
As a result, in shifts of four players per day, the basketball team began to
regularly tutor Middletown children enrolled in the program. Even now, with
spring semester underway, a handful of players continue to tutor in their
“Many athletes have a sense that things should be given to them, and I
wanted our team to know that they should give something back to the
community,” says McDowell. “Our team is a solid group of guys, who all care
about one another on and off the court and this is important for them to do
as a team.”
“I love math and I always encourage the kids to stay with it and to have
fun,” says Jared Ashe, the Wesleyan basketball team captain and a junior
Economics major from Stamford, Conn. “In sports, great coaching motivates
you to play your best. I want to motivate the kids with their homework in
the same way.”
When they arrive at the Green Street Arts Center, the students, who range in
age from seven to 14, eat a snack and socialize a bit with friends. Then the
students who are not enrolled in arts classes go to the homework room where
several tutors, including the basketball players, are stationed to assist
After helping students finish their homework, which can be in a variety of
subjects including math and reading, the players often talk with the kids
and sometimes play board games with them.
Ashe, who has always enjoyed tutoring his peers even back in high school,
says the board games help to motivate the students to follow through and
finish up their homework.
Thirteen year-old Elijah always wants to finish his homework, he says,
because that means Gonzalez-Kreisberg will tell him a story afterwards.
“One time, Gabe told me how he touched the court at an Orlando Magic game!”
During every tutoring session, Wesleyan’s basketball players agree that the
students always seem to get excited about their schoolwork.
“I think one reason why is that we’re such a close group of guys that are
all genuinely happy to help out,” says Ashe.
Gonzalez-Kreisberg says another reason why is because he and his teammates
act as mentors for the students.
“Because we play a sport and because these students are impressed by the
NBA, it allows us to connect directly to them,” says Gonzalez-Kreisberg.
“We try to always stress to them that we are just people who happen to play
basketball and that we’re strong in our academics first, then in athletics,”
Despite heavy academic and athletic schedules, both Ashe and Gonzalez-Kreisberg,
and other players, like sophomore Nick Pelletier from Amherst, New
Hampshire, are committed to continue tutoring at Green Street. Even Coach
McDowell has committed to spend some time tutoring at the Center before the
year is out.
“Having the team volunteer during Winter break was a tremendous help as we
are often left with no student volunteers until classes resume in late
January,” says Ricardo Morris, Director of the Green Street Arts Center. “It
was also especially nice to have so many male volunteers. I hope the
basketball team and other males will consider volunteering at Green Street
“This is such a positive experience for us as individuals and as a team,”
says Ashe. “Hopefully it will continue long after we have all graduated from
For more information about how to become a Green Street Arts Center
volunteer, please contact volunteer coordinator Lauren Tinkoff at
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit