posted June 6, 2006

Grants Support CASA Summer Program

The Old West will take on new life through the Children's After School Achievement (CASA) program at Hope College this summer with the help of grants from two local organizations.

The Youth Advisory Committee of the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area has awarded CASA $9,960 to help underwrite "CASA Strikes Gold on the Journey West," which will be featured throughout CASA's summer program, running Monday, June 19, through Thursday, July 27. The western theme will provide the framework for a variety of activities for the approximately 100 second- through fifth-grade students the program anticipates hosting.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, through a grant to Holland Hospital and Hope College, has provided $4,735 in support of CASA's "ABC Workout (Active Bodies at CASA)" program, which as part of the summer program will offer structured physical activity and presentations designed to help the children value and practice physical fitness.

CASA, a community organization housed at Hope, focuses on academic and cultural enrichment. The program, which runs year-round, is intended to improve the academic performance of at-risk students by providing the tools they need to succeed in school.

The students meet after school twice per week in one-on-one sessions with volunteer tutors throughout the school year, and in the mornings during the six-week summer session. The academic-year and summer programs serve Holland and West Ottawa students.

CASA's accomplishments include increased reading scores in 94 percent of students since enrollment, 93 percent daily average attendance rates and "good to excellent" daily participation scores of 98 percent. A total of 120 students participated in the 2005-06 school-year program.

This summer's activities will involve a variety of organizations. Site visits to the DeGraaf Nature Center and to Teusink's Pony Farm will provide insights into pioneer life and farm life respectively. Herrick District Library will offer an Old West story time, and the Holland Area Arts Council and Hope Summer Repertory Theatre will offer additional cultural programs in the arts. The college's department of biology will share lessons about Old West plants and animals.

The "ABC Workout (Active Bodies at CASA)" program will include a hiking club, group physical fitness games and individual exercise. Weekly group presentations will cover topics such as nutrition, creative exercise and lifestyle choices. Students and their families will also try line dancing or square dancing at the new family fitness fun night. Dr. Mark Northuis of the college's kinesiology faculty will coordinate the fitness program.

Established in 1987 by Marge Rivera Bermann and Latin Americans United for Progress (LAUP), CASA was originally housed at First United Methodist Church. The program moved to Graves Hall at Hope College in 1989. CASA's executive director is Fonda Green and program director is Bob Boersma.