When Wesleyan opened Green Street Center in January 2005, it signed a lease with the City of Middletown to improve an old school building so as to operate after-school educational and art programs in the North End of the City. The plan was that over time the programs would become self-sustaining through private and foundation support. Despite the best efforts of the University and the Green Street staff, sustainability has proven elusive. Wesleyan has spent more than $4 million on these programs, a significant percentage of which has gone to overhead expenses. While Green Street contributes to the community in many important ways, we believe we need a new model for supporting the community engagement of our students. In the wake of the university’s decision in regard to Green Street, Prof. Rob Rosenthal, director of the Allbritton Center, and Cathy Lechowicz, Director of the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships, are leading work on a Civic Action Plan to determine how the University can have the greatest impact on the community, including families and children.
Wesleyan’s lease on the facility that houses the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center expires in July 2018, and this week we informed the six members of the regular Center staff that over the course of the next year we will be winding down operations there. We are very grateful for their efforts and wanted to be sure to give them a full year to prepare for the future—a future that we hope will continue to involve working with Wesleyan.
The students and staff who work at Green Street have done a wonderful job in engaging members of the community in high-quality arts, math and science programs. We plan to continue aspects of these programs in on-campus settings and also to develop other community-based resources so as to continue our involvement in local, diversified education projects. We will continue to offer volunteer and employment opportunities for our students to work with children in the North End and throughout Middletown.
At Green Street, and at local schools, Oddfellows, Traverse Square and other organizations, Wesleyan students have learned invaluable lessons about making a positive difference in the lives of children. Over the next year, as part of our Civic Action Plan, we will be working to provide our students with a variety of community engagement opportunities. Those opportunities should include the most effective elements of the programming at Green Street. Engagement of Wesleyans with the community will take wide-ranging forms in the future, and the University will strive to help them make that engagement as productive as possible.