posted November 26, 2012

CASA to Celebrate 25th Anniversary with Community Reception

The silver-anniversary reception on Monday, Dec. 3, for the Children’s After School Achievement (CASA) program at Hope College will put a major focus on the young lives that the program has touched during its 25 years, but no less attention will be given to the veritable village that has made the impact possible.

Literally thousands of area children have participated since CASA began in 1987, all, noted executive director Fonda Green, because hundreds of individuals and multiple organizations in the community have come together on their behalf.  Correspondingly, the anniversary event is featuring the theme “Celebrating 25 Years of Building Children’s Future Together,” and the community is invited.

The Monday, Dec. 3, celebration is taking place at 4 p.m. in the rotunda of the college’s Martha Miller Center for Global Communication.  Admission is free.

“It’s celebrating the fact that thousands of kids have come through the program to assure their academic success.  It’s celebrating our close working relationship with the schools.  It’s celebrating the families who want their children to succeed and send them to CASA.  It’s also celebrating the hundreds of tutors who have given so much time because they want to give back to the community where they live,” Green said.

“So it’s celebrating, it’s acknowledging, it’s also honoring all these community connections that work together for Holland’s children,” she said.  “It’s rejoicing over all of these collaborations and partnerships for the good of CASA’s young students.”

CASA, a community program of Hope College, provides academic and cultural enrichment for at-risk first- 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.

During the school year, the students meet after school twice per week in one-on-one sessions with volunteer tutors, most of whom are Hope students.  During its summer session, CASA receives additional support from the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area to conduct a theme-related program in five classes, each led by a certified teacher and assistant four mornings a week.

The academic-year and summer programs serve Holland and West Ottawa students.  CASA serves a total of 150 elementary-age students from September through July.

Highlights of the celebration will include remarks by former CASA student Karen Moreno of Holland, who participated in CASA from 2003 through 2005 as a fourth- and fifth-grader and is now a Hope freshman; and current fourth-grade participant Diego Hernandez, who is a student at Holland’s East K-7 school.  Remarks will also be offered by Hope freshman Mallory Dye of Castleton, Ind., who is Hernandez’s tutor, and Holland K-7 principal Nereida Garcia, who was on the founding board of CASA.

About 100 of CASA’s current participants and tutors will also be attending, and entertainment will be provided by magician Maciek Biezunski.  The master of ceremonies will be Roberto Jara, executive director of Latin Americans United for Progress (LAUP).

The event will also include recognition of several of CASA’s significant community partnerships, such as United Way and Holland Public Schools, and Green noted that Jara’s participation is especially appropriate.  LAUP helped to start CASA, which was originally housed at First United Methodist Church until moving to Hope in 1989.

CASA has its offices and conducts its summer classes in Graves Hall, and conducts its school-year activities in classrooms in Lubbers Hall.

While CASA’s one-on-one tutoring model has remained at the heart of the program since the beginning, Green noted that refinements are on-going.  Earlier this year, for example, CASA implemented a new “life skills” component, featuring lesson plans developed by the college’s department of education, with additional support from the Meemic Foundation.  CASA and Hope College TRIO Upward Bound, which works with high school students, have also been working together for the past three years to run the “Step Up” program, through which Upward Bound students tutor sixth- to eighth-grade students who have aged out of CASA.

The Martha Miller Center for Global Communication is located at 257 Columbia Ave., on Columbia Avenue at 10th Street.