posted July 23, 2008

Grant Has Supported Program of Olympic Scope

The Children's After School Achievement (CASA) program at Hope College has offered a summer program of Olympic scope thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area.

In anticipation of this summer's Olympic Games in China, CASA's six-week summer program has featured the theme "The Olympic Spirit," presenting the 100 participating elementary-age children with academic and physical-education lessons inspired by the international games.

The program, which began in June, will even be concluding with a "closing ceremony" on Thursday, July 24, in which the students will parade to their wrap-up presentations and luncheon grouped by their classrooms, which focused thematically on individual participating nations.

The Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area awarded CASA $8,600 in support of the summer's program.  During class time the students learned various lessons including information concerning the nation for which their particular classroom was themed (Australia, Canada, Italy, Kenya, Spain and the United Kingdom).  The students also had an opportunity to participate in multiple sports both on-campus and in other venues in the area, including in archery, gymnastics, softball, table tennis, volleyball, and track and field.

The blend made for a winning mix that served the students well, according to Fonda Green, who is the CASA program's executive director.

"We tied in the whole academic piece with the physical component," she said.  "In addition to the fact that the Olympics focuses on the sports themselves, this summer's program also provided a broader global picture of learning through the Olympics."

CASA, a community organization housed at Hope, provides academic and cultural enrichment for at-risk second- through fifth-grade students. The program, which runs year-round, is intended to improve the students' academic performance 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, most of whom are Hope students, 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.  A total of 132 elementary-age students participated during the most recent 2007-08 school year, the highest number ever.

CASA was established in 1987 by Marge Rivera Bermann and Latin Americans United for Progress (LAUP) and originally housed at FirstUnitedMethodistChurch. CASA moved to HopeCollege in 1989, and has its offices and summer classes in Van Zoeren Hall and its school-year activities in classrooms in Lubbers Hall.