The Children's After School Achievement (CASA) program at Hope College has been named one of five finalists statewide for the "Outstanding Mentoring Program Award" in the 2010 Governor's Service Award program.

The Children's After School Achievement (CASA) program at Hope College has been named one of five finalists statewide for the "Outstanding Mentoring Program Award" in the 2010 Governor's Service Award program.

Coordinated by the Michigan Community Service Commission, the Governor's Service Awards are given annually to individuals, businesses, and organizations to acknowledge their commitment to serving their communities through volunteerism.

A total of 40 finalists have been named in eight categories, selected from more than 130 individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations from across the state nominated for their commitment to volunteer service.  One award recipient in each category will be announced during an awards celebration honoring all of the finalists on Thursday, June 24, at the Gem Theatre in Detroit, hosted by Governor Jennifer M. Granholm and First Gentleman Daniel G. Mulhern.

The "Outstanding Mentoring Program Award" honors an extraordinary mentoring program or organization that provides high-quality mentoring with significant results for children in Michigan.

"We are deeply honored to have been named a finalist," said Fonda Green, executive director of CASA.  "CASA is successful because of our many volunteers - including more than 175 Hope students each year - and friends in the community who give selflessly on behalf of the children with whom we work, and we appreciate that others recognize those efforts and the difference that they're making."

CASA, a community organization housed at Hope, 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 a six-week summer session, CASA runs five classes, each led by a certified teacher and assistant, four mornings a week.  This year's summer session will begin on Monday, June 21, and feature the theme "Science Explosion: Our Future Comes to Life."

The academic-year and summer programs serve Holland and West Ottawa students.  A total of 150 elementary-age students participated in CASA during the 2009-10 year.

Brian Davis, superintendent of the Holland Public Schools, singled out the mentoring relationships with Hope students and the program's campus location for particular praise, especially for children who might not have older siblings at home, or who might not otherwise have had a chance to experience a college or university.

"Being able to foster that kind of a relationship on a college campus has a very powerful impact on students," said Davis, who nominated CASA for the award.  "It exposes children to higher education in a very positive way, and it provides great role models and great academic support as a result of that."

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 newly renovated Graves Hall and its school-year activities in classrooms in Lubbers Hall.

In addition to the "Outstanding Mentoring Program Award," the categories in the Governor's Service Award program are the "Governor George Romney Lifetime Achievement Award," the "Corporate Community Leader Award," the "Mentor of the Year" award, the "Outstanding Volunteer Program Award," the "Senior Volunteer of the Year Award," the "Volunteer of the Year" award and the "Youth Volunteer of the Year" award.

The other four finalists in the "Outstanding Mentoring Program Award" category are the Art of Leadership Foundation of Detroit; the Explore Mentor PLUS Program of Alma; The Henry Ford Youth Mentorship Program of Dearborn; and Lunch Buddies-Central Michigan University Volunteer Center of Mount Pleasant.