CASA Begins 15th Birthday Year
Commemoration with Family
Posted April 15, 2002
HOLLAND -- The Children's After School Achievement
(CASA) program's annual end-of-year "Family Celebration"
will mark the beginning of a year-long commemoration of
CASA's 15th birthday.
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.
The annual "Family Celebration" recognizes the
children's hard work as participants in CASA, and includes
their family members and others involved in the program.
This year's activities will include face painting, gifts of
books to the children, door prize drawings and entertainment
by magician Shawn Jacob. The event's festive theme made it
the right way to begin commemorating CASA's anniversary,
according to Fonda Green, CASA's executive director.
"Our Family Celebration celebrates the year's
successes," said Green, who joined the program in 1998.
"This year's celebration seemed like a good time to begin
our recognition of the successes of the last 15 years, and
our work in the community."
Rick Muniz, principal of Holland's Longfellow
Elementary, one the schools that has children participating
in CASA, appreciates what CASA represents as a sign of the
community's commitment to children's lives.
"We've always viewed the responsibility to educate
and nurture children as one that we share with parents of
the kids and the community," he said. "It's really
fulfilling a highly needed role in that respect."
Over the course of the past decade-and-a-half, he
noted, the CASA program itself has become a trusted and
"There's no hesitation on the part of our staff in
viewing CASA as a very necessary help for our children," he
said. "After 15 years, there's such a degree of trust
that's been built up between the school and CASA that the
program becomes a part of what the school is."
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.
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
Approximately 100 students participate during both
the school-year and the summer sessions. With additional
support, Green noted, the totals could be even higher.
"We have more people on the waiting list than we
are currently able to serve," she said.
The academic-year program serves Holland-area
students, and the summer program serves Holland and West
Ottawa as well. CASA students attend from Black River,
Glerum, Great Lakes, Holland Heights, Jefferson, Lakeview,
Longfellow, Maplewood, North Holland, Pine Creek, Vanderbilt
Academy, Van Raalte, Washington, Waukazoo and Woodside
CASA receives its operating support through grants
from the City of Holland, Greater Ottawa County United Way
and Volunteer Center, and several civic organizations,
corporations and private individuals. Hope provides in-kind
assistance that includes office and classroom space as well
as general program oversight.
In addition, about 100 volunteers serve as tutors
each year, including dozens of Hope students as well as
members of the community. The relationships established
through such mentoring, Muniz feels, play no less critical a
role in the children's lives than the tutoring itself, and
can have benefits far beyond their elementary years.
"They beam when they know they've got a special
relationship with the tutor or the mentor that they're going
to see," Muniz said. "That significant relationship with a
caring adult in their lives can help develop skills that
make them resilient to whatever difficulties that will come
to them in the future."
The CASA Family Celebration will take place on
Thursday, April 25, with other birthday festivities set
throughout the remainder of the year.