Children’s After School Achievement, CASA, proclaims the motto, “Promoting success at school and in life – one child and one afternoon at a time.” Since 1987, the community program at Hope College has linked the at-risk children of Holland with Hope students to form a partnership in education. Through emphasizing one- on-one tutoring, school work supplementation and mentorship with college students, the current one hundred and eighty children in the program build strengths in organization, reading and homework completion.
This past week marked the first time CASA tutors met with the children this year, heightening a mix of nerves and excitement for tutors, students and those in charge.
Near the end of last Thursday’s program, Fonda Green, the executive director of CASA, matched the bright- eyed and cheery attitude of the children by exclaiming that the afternoon was “so full of life and so energetic.”
This program brightens Lubbers Hall on Monday through Thursday afternoons with crayons, backpacks and happy first through fifth graders. The academic year tutoring holds a malleable schedule consisting of free transportation from school, a healthy after- school snack, homework time, reading time, enrichment time and a daily report shared with each child to give immediate feedback and encouragement in the necessary areas.
While explaining overarching goal of CASA, program director, Kevin Hilgert said the “holistic mission of the program is greater than the sum of its parts.” This reiterates that no singular goal of the program is mutually exclusive but rather, united. The multi-themed schedule and catered environment plays great tribute to that claim. The Phelps-facing classrooms of Lubbers transform, opening unnoticeable cupboards to find shelves consisting of hundreds of colorful books and craft supplies, allowing the young students to feel more at ease in their tutoring environment.
Hilgert emphasized that one vital prong of this mission is to introduce the children to the idea of college and further encourage their education. By pairing children with college students, the idea of attending college seems both more relatable and attainable for the young students.
Although the program revolves around the children, the benefits that Hope student tutors receive provides satisfaction. Libby Vander Lee (’19) lit up as she shared that CASA has impacted her to such an extent that she chose to major in education, adding a focus on at-risk students.
However, many of the tutors are not education majors and chose to pursue the program for other reasons. As Nick Parliament (’18) checked in energetic children for the afternoon, he explained that his reason lies in helping the children diminish the anxiety that can often revolve around school.
For the children, the enthusiasm seems to stem from a primary source. As seven-year- old student Johnny explained, his favorite part of CASA is his tutor, Sadie Vander Lee (’20); an answer that paralleled through every child asked. Hilgert’s emphasis on the importance of the one-on-one college tutor and child relationship evidently shined.
As the wild nature surrounding the start to the school year begins to ease, hidden free time can pop up, creating space for different activities and volunteer opportunities. Green emphasized that for students whose schedules permit the program’s timely needs, tutors are still being accepted for the semester.
For more information, visit www.hope.edu/casa. The website holds job applications and contact information, links to donate, refer a child and session schedule, as well as more information on the summer programs offered.