The Children’s After School Achievement (CASA) and Step Up programs at Hope College have received a grant from the Michigan’s Department of Education’s Out-of-School Time initiative for their summer sessions for Holland-area children finishing first through eighth grade.

This is the second year in a row that CASA and Step Up have received a grant through Out-of-School Time.  This summer’s $87,000 award will enable the two programs to continue the enhanced service that last year’s $86,400 grant also made possible, including hosting more students, expanding the curriculum, hiring additional staff to provide the same level of instructional support per student, and in the case of Step Up to increase the number of weeks that the program runs.

“The CASA and Step Up summer sessions complement a student’s academic-year learning, with subject areas including math, literacy and science, as well as provide individualized attention and personal enrichment and well-being to help offset ‘summer slide’ and prepare them for the year ahead,” said Kate Lozon, who directs CASA and Step Up.  “Our programs are made possible by generous contributions from community partners, and we are grateful that we can extend their impact through the Out-of-School Time awards.”

CASA and Step Up, along with Hope College TRIO Upward Bound, operate as part of a network at the college focused on enhancing the academic achievement of area grades 1-12 students from underrepresented groups.  CASA serves students in first through fifth grades; Step Up serves students in sixth through eighth grades; and Upward Bound — which is funded through the federal TRIO Upward Bound program — serves students in ninth through 12th grades.  All three programs run during both the school year and summer.

“Other than CASA, Step Up and Upward Bound, there are no other cost-free programs in Holland that work directly with the schools to provide consistent year-round, need-based tutoring in academic classes for students in grades 1-12; offer an academically focused summer program; and transport students to and from the program daily,” Lozon said.

CASA, established in 1987, provides academic and cultural enrichment for underrepresented first- through fifth-grade students from Holland and West Ottawa public schools, Corpus Christi Catholic School and Eagle Crest Public School.  During the school year, approximately 80 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 three-four classes, each led by a certified teacher and assistant four mornings a week for six weeks, providing a mixture of academic work as well as enrichment programs.

In addition to the classroom instruction, which focuses on mathematics, reading and writing, the summer programming includes participation in the summer science camps offered through the college’s ExploreHope program and experiences such as attending a Hope Repertory Theatre children’s performance and a trip to the Critter Barn.  Along with enhancing the summer program activities, this year’s and last year’s state grants have enabled CASA to increase participation from 40 students to 60.

Step Up, established in 2010, provides academic support in a mentoring context to underrepresented middle school students with academic need from the Holland and West Ottawa public schools as well as Corpus Christi Catholic School and Eagle Crest Public School.  Step Up serves 35 children during the academic year.  Last year’s state grant enabled the program to expand the summer program’s capacity from 10 students to 32, while also increasing its duration from two weeks to six weeks.

This summer’s state grant will enable StepUp to continue at last year’s size. Partnered with ExploreHope, the program will feature hands-on learning through weekly themes including ecology, art and design, dissection, roller coaster science and chemistry.  Additional activities will range from lessons in nutrition and cooking through Michigan State University’s Extension office, to ukulele lessons, to reading books related to the weekly themes.

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 enrolls approximately 90 students each year from the Holland, West Ottawa and Fennville school districts.  Throughout the academic year, students come to Hope a minimum of twice a week to receive help in their high school subjects from Hope College tutors in addition to participating in other programming including workshops on topics such as goal-setting, decision-making, the college search process, career awareness, financial literacy, and time management. A six-week summer residential program on the Hope campus exposes students to the academic and social world of college.