Why does a 22-year old college student from the Dayton area juggle both academics and athletics at Case Western Reserve University, and why does this same student who already has two younger brothers of his own decide to be a Big Brother to a young child from Cleveland? It's pretty simple–Gian Genovesi misses being around kids.
"I grew up in a house full of kids (two younger sisters and the aforementioned brothers), so it was weird to come to college and not be around them," Genovesi explained. "I get a lot out of hanging out with them–it keeps me grounded."
Grounded is something the Case Western Reserve football team, currently ranked No. 18 in the country in the NCAA Division III, also is trying to remain.
Big Brothers Big Sisters guidelines usually require volunteers to talk once a week on the phone and meet once a month in person with the child. Genovesi goes above and beyond the call of duty with Steven, an area eighth grader, as the two talk at least twice a week and usually get together every Sunday.
"I saw a couple similarities between the problems he was having to the ones I had when I was a kid, like not listening and not really being focused on what needs to be done. Plus, he liked football and I kind of like football I guess," joked the 2008 first-team All-UAA defensive lineman.
Luckily, Genovesi also has a good relationship with Steven's mother Sheila. The two speak over the phone on a regular basis about what she would like Gian to talk with her son about. Sheila knows that Genovesi is there to help and has seen changes in Steven since he became involved.
"Anyone that can go to school full time, work, attend football practice and still have time to be a Big Brother is just excellent," Sheila said. "It's more than what I expected. Gian took him home to his family, his family has been here, and he treats him like an actual brother."
This past summer Genovesi, with the help of some of the Case Athletics' family, was able to enroll Steven into the St. Ignatius High School Summer Enrichment Program. The program, which was a month long, consisted of academic programs in the morning and sports in the afternoon.
"He got to learn about the sciences and languages, plus play sports," Genovesi said. "It was really neat–he was actually saying cool things to me in French. That was big, because we went from him not having anything to do and getting into who knows what to being at Ignatius and having a good time while learning."
Genovesi, a management major concentrating in finance at Case Western Reserve, also hosted the first annual 'Genopalooza' over the summer where he had a sleep over with his two brothers, a cousin and Steven. He took the kids to an area grocery store and spent $60 on pop, candy and everything kids are "allowed" to eat. The gang just bunkered in all weekend and played video games.
"My mom and dad made shirts, it was great," said Genovesi.
The two also go to movies together, check out area beaches and sometimes just go to the field and throw the ball around. In addition, Genovesi has taken Steven to Case basketball games as well as a Cleveland Cavaliers game or two.
"I am not there to scoop him away and save him from whatever," Genovesi explained. "I am just there to be a friend, not a parent, and to show him there are different options out there. He's something great. He may not know it yet, but he will [be]."
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