Program combines basketball, tutoring to help with grades

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN – An after-school program encouraging students to play basketball and get help with schoolwork is coming back.

Basketball and Books, a program developed through a partnership with the Dearborn Recreation & Parks Department and Dearborn Public Schools, offers middle-school students between sixth and eighth grade the opportunity to play supervised 3-on-3 basketball and receive help with their schoolwork from former Dearborn Heights District 7 and Detroit Archdiocese teacher Mary Gardai.

Michael Timiney, recreation supervisor for the city of Dearborn, said the idea for the program came from trying to find a space for students to exercise while also receiving help with studies. The program began in O.L. Smith Middle School in January with a good turnout, Timiney said.

“Whatever your total (number of students who participated) was,” he said, “about half would spend time in the gymnasium playing basketball and and the other half would be in the class getting help with school work.”

The program was funded by a $5,000 grant from Wayne County Commissioner Gary Woronchak. In an email, he said he was initially approached by Recreation Director Greg Orner about sponsoring the program after also securing a $20,00 grant to fund the city’s anti-bullying effort.

“I was pleased to … provide a grant for this program to provide a service for middle school students,” he said in the email. “The grant program is aimed at helping young people stay on the right track, so this after-school program is a good fit for this grant.”

Dearborn Public Schools spokesman David Mustonen said the opportunity to partner with the city to help students with schoolwork and keep active was intriguing.

“It’s not just ‘Go study math for an hour’ which can turn kids off,” he said. “This opens the door a little bit and gives them something to do.”

Timiney said the program also features a mentor or community leader, who will address issues like bullying and fitness. Possible mentors this year include Police Chief Ronald Haddad and former Western Michigan University track and field athlete and police officer Gordie McIntosh.

Mustonen said the possibility exists of increasing the program to other schools in the distrcit. Expansion, however, depends on the community’s response.

“If there’s a lot of interest in the program and there seems to be more of a demand, then we can try it at other schools as well,” Mustonen said. “Depending on how well it goes over and how many kids are involved we’ll continue it.”

Dearborn Community Fund Executive Director EmmaJean Woodyard said because the program is new, there aren’t many sponsorships available. She said individuals in the Dearborn Recreation Commission and the Dearborn Kiwanis Club have agreed to sponsor, but it’s too early to tell if more will join.

The free sessions are held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Mondays beginning Nov. 14 at O.L. Smith Middle School and Wednesdays beginning Nov. 16 at Woodworth Middle School. Space is limited, and residents interested in registering their children must do so online at or by calling the Dearborn Public School District’s Adult & Community Education Department at 313-827-1959.

(Daniel Heraty can be reached at