By Vanessa Mironov
CARTERET—During times of belt-tightening budgets among many school districts, the students of Carteret Middle School are fortunate to be offered an extraordinary after-school program free of charge.
Now in its second year at the middle school, the Carteret Arts and Sports Academy (CASA) proves to be a successful and unique program for students. The Arts and Education Center, in partnership with the Carteret Public Schools, has created CASA using the awarded federal funds from the 21st Century Community Learning Grant. Through the grant, funds will be available for five years allowing CASA to offer academic, artistic, athletic and cultural enrichment opportunities for students and their families.
For about three hours everyday after school, approximately 200 students receive high quality supplemental services in reading and mathematics. Under the direction of Tamira Chapman, CASA director, activities are planned in the areas of nutrition, music, art and technology. Students are given the opportunity to engage in the activity of their choice. Character education is integrated into all aspects of the program as well. To further extend learning, field trips are planned to such venues as museums and Broadway theaters. Chapman commented, “CASA is a wonderful opportunity to commit to new academic challenges while exploring the arts, sports and other extra-curricular activities.”
The school calendar is divided into trimesters, and a festival is held to celebrate student success at the close of each. At the festival, students present projects and talents to their peers, parents, school staff and community members as was evident on Friday, March 27, with students sharing their achievements including step dancing performances and displays of student photography and architectural models.
Michelle Mendoza, a seventh grade math teacher at the middle school, plays an integral role in CASA as a team leader. Mendoza stated, “CASA’s festival night is an exciting showcase of the students’ hard work, newly developed skills and hobbies. Together, the team leaders and students entertain family and friends with a presentation on the activities they have been participating in for the last ten weeks. It is encouraging to both the students and CASA staff to see so many caring and involved parents come to share in the celebration!”
CASA allows for appropriate social interactions among students to take place in a safe, monitored environment where all opinions are valued. During CASA hours, students practice positive relationship skills in both academic and social situations. Teachers of the CASA program serve as role models and continually work toward helping the youth of Carteret Middle School develop into successful citizens.
Students and their team leader take a break from cheering to pose for a picture at the CASA festival on March 27.