posted May 17, 2004

Local Grants Support CASA

Grants from two local agencies will provide support for the Children's After School Achievement (CASA) program at Hope College as it works with area children this summer and during the coming school year.

The Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area and the Holland Junior Welfare League have each awarded CASA grants that will support activity this summer and fall respectively.

The CASA program, a community organization housed at Hope, works with at-risk second through fifth grade students, focusing on academic achievement 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 1.5 hours per session throughout the school year, and in the mornings during the six-week summer session.

The $6,250 grant from the Youth Advisory Committee of the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area will support CASA's "Community PALS: Partners Achieving Leadership Success" program, which will begin in mid-June.

"'Community PALS' is a completely new program whose goal is to address our young students' potential to make positive contributions as leaders in society through direct exposure to our community and the opportunities they have to become productive citizens," said Fonda Green, executive director of CASA. "The project has been modeled after the Leadership Holland program that is conducted for area adults by the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce."

Students will focus on a different aspect of the community during each of the six weeks this summer. Topics will include an introduction to Holland's community life, history and diversity; community safety; education; arts and culture; government; and community service. The students will participate in on-site visits, meet with experts in each of the areas and engage in related activities through their classroom program.

The $1,886 grant from the Holland Junior Welfare League will support CASA's "Boosting Success with Homework Supplies" initiative at the start of the new school year in September.

"This project springs from a recognition that many of the children who come to CASA are from low-income families who do not have the means to provide basic, essential homework materials," Green said. "The goal of this project is to help improve homework success by equipping CASA students with basic materials that can be used at home to help complete assignments confidently and accurately."

Materials provided to each child will include a variety of writing, drawing and craft supplies, as well as a small calculator capable of basic functions.

Approximately 100 students participate in CASA 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.