Project TEACH, an incentive scholarship program at Hope College whose primary objective is increasing the number of persons of color in the teaching profession, has chosen a ninth group of participating high school students.

Sashy Caamal, Joanie Beth Kasten and Valerie Lopez, all of Holland, joined the program with the start of the 2004-05 school year. They will be recognized during a reception at the college's Maas Center auditorium on Thursday, Sept. 30, at 7:30 p.m.

The public is invited. Admission is free.

Project TEACH (Teachers Entering a Career Through Hope) provides mentoring and instructional support for the high schoolers, who begin as sophomores or juniors. The program also provides scholarship aid for the participants as Hope students. The program's goal is to help local students while increasing the number of minorities who become teachers locally.Barbara Albers, director of Project TEACH, praised the new students for their enthusiasm and commitment to their own future career plans and the students that they will in turn serve. She noted that the program now has participants at every level, from the three high school students who are just beginning, to several currently at Hope, to five who have graduated from the college.

"I am very pleased to see nine of our Project TEACH students on the Hope campus now," Albers said. "Three freshmen joined this year's freshman class, and we will have our third class of Hope graduates this spring. Two more Project TEACH students will become Hope alumni and join the teaching profession."The program enrolled its first high school students in the fall of 1996. A total of 18 are currently participating, including the nine at Hope and nine in high school. The first two participants graduated from Hope in 2003, and another three in 2004.

Caamal is a sophomore at Holland High School, and is the daughter of Raul and Irma Caamal of Holland. She plays basketball and softball at school. She also provides peer counseling through the school's "Pals" program, and volunteers with a church program that provides recreational activities for area youth.

She is interested in teaching elementary-age students, having enjoyed working with her young nephew. "Watching him grow every day and me being able to teach him something," she said, "You get a great feeling out of it."

Kasten is a junior at West Ottawa High School, and is the daughter of Rick Kathy Kasten of Holland. She spends time as a volunteer - last year at a nursing home, and this year providing child care through a program that assists teen-age mothers.

"I've wanted to be a third grade teacher since I was in third grade - I had an awesome teacher," she said. A career in education, she noted, will fit well with her interest in helping children and working with others. "I also like school and teaching things to other people and getting to know people," she said.

Lopez is a junior at West Ottawa High School, and is the daughter of Javier and Debra Lopez of Holland. Her activities at school include debate and soccer; she also assists younger soccer teams with skills development.

She has found inspiration in those who have helped her brother, who is autistic. "Watching people interact with him helped inspire me to become someone who could help other people as well." She is interested in teaching high school or even college students, hoping for spirited class discussions. "I'm kind of a smart aleck," she said. "If I teach college students, they'll be witty right back. That'll be fun - they'll challenge me."

In addition to this year's new students, the program's participants are: Kristine Brandt, a junior at Hope; Justine Campos, a sophomore at Hope; Tiffani Delaney, a freshman at Hope; Tiffany Khousakoun, a junior at Holland High School; Monica Martinez, a senior at West Ottawa High School; Yadira Martinez, a sophomore at Hope; Tung Nguyen, a freshman at Hope; Jessica Nykamp-Schwander, a freshman at Hope; Dinah Rios, a senior at Hope; Esperanza Rodriguez, a junior at Holland High School; Diego Romero, a senior at Holland High School; Pannha Sann, a senior at Hope; Wanda Turner, a senior at Holland High School; Victoria Vicencio, a senior at West Ottawa High School; and Antoine Williams, a junior at Hope.

The program's five graduates are: Meyly Sew and Sonia Soto, who are members of the Class of 2003; and Kristina Kyles Houston, Kristina Martinez and Dina Vathanaphone, who are members of the Class of 2004.