posted May 6, 2002

CASA Receives Grants from Area Agencies

The Children's After School Achievement (CASA) program has received support from two local agencies.

The Youth Advisory Committee of The Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area and the Holland Junior Welfare League have each awarded CASA grants to support activity beginning this summer and continuing into the 2002-03 school year.

The CASA program, a community organization housed at Hope College, works with at-risk first through fifth grade students, focusing on academic and social development. The program began in 1987.

CASA runs year-round, providing wellness education, cultural awareness, and academic enrichment to the participating students. The program is intended to improve their academic performance and help them develop healthy, productive lifestyles. CASA's students meet after school twice per week for two hours per session throughout the school year, and in the mornings during the six-week summer session.

The $2,500 grant from the Youth Advisory Committee of The Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area will support "Los Amigos," a themed program that will emphasize world studies, including geography, culture and diversity, and connection to other people. The grant will help provide learning resources and supplies, books and curriculum support.

"In addition to our students' need to focus on academic enrichment, this year we want to include a new element of social learning as it relates to diversity and connections to each other," said Fonda Green, who is executive director of CASA. "While September 11, 2001, pointed out the problem of anger and fighting in our world, it also illustrated the positive connections we have with people who show understanding. The Beatles sing 'Life is very short and there's no time for fussing and fighting, my friend. We can work it out.' CASA has the opportunity to demonstrate how to work it out, how to be friends/amigos through exposure to and appreciation for a variety of cultures."

The $1,750 grant from the Holland Junior Welfare League will support CASA's transportation program. CASA picks up the children who are participating in the program, collecting them from their schools during the school year, and returns them home at the end of the day.

"In addition to stability, mentoring and enrichment activities, we also serve our young population by providing safe, reliable transportation to and from CASA," Green said. "Rather than leaving attendance up to chance, we are assuring each child's participation, and thus, their future success."

Approximately 100 students participate during both the school-year and the summer sessions. The academic-year program serves Holland-area students, and the summer program serves Holland and West Ottawa as well.

Established by Marge Rivera Bermann, CASA was originally administered by Latin Americans United for Progress (LAUP) and housed at First United Methodist Church. The program moved to Graves Hall at Hope College in 1989.