The City of Holland has honored the Children’s After School Achievement (CASA) program at Hope College for nurturing elementary-age students in the community for three decades.

The recognition was presented during the Wednesday, Feb. 7, meeting of Holland’s City Council.  The proclamation from Nancy R. DeBoer, mayor of Holland, offered congratulations to “CASA, its students, Hope College administration, student volunteers, teaching faculty and supporters of this the 30th year of successful mentoring of Holland area youth” and thanks for “your daily efforts toward superior educational expectations for all the children of our community.”

CASA, a community program of Hope College, provides academic and cultural enrichment for underrepresented 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 the summer session, CASA runs four classes, each led by a certified teacher and assistant four mornings a week, providing a mixture of academic work as well as enrichment programs.

The academic-year and summer programs serve Holland and West Ottawa students.  A total of 101 elementary-age students are participating in CASA this year.

CASA was started in 1987 by Holland community members who were concerned that many area minority children were falling behind and needed extra academic support at the elementary level. The first program session was held for 45 children in first through eighth grade at First United Methodist Church. CASA became an outreach program of Hope College in 1989, and has its offices and summer classes in Graves Hall and its school-year activities in classrooms in Lubbers Hall.

CASA operates as part of a network at the college focused on enhancing young students’ educational achievement, serving the community along with Step Up and Hope College TRiO Upward Bound.

Hope College TRiO Upward Bound seeks to generate the skills and motivation necessary for success in education beyond high school among students from low-income and first-generation families who have the potential to pursue a college education but may lack adequate preparation or support. Established in 1968, the program is one of the oldest continuous Upward Bound programs in the country, and has been administered through Hope since its inception.

Step Up has existed since 2010, when CASA and Upward Bound felt the time was right to pilot a support project for middle school students, a population not served by either of the other programs. Step Up provides academic support in a mentoring context to underrepresented middle school students with academic need in the Holland area.