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RCA students offer help to needy families

CONYERS - Helping at least 100 needy families last year wasn't enough for two students at the Rockdale Career Academy. They want to help more this year.

For the second year, Julia Taylor and Danielle Haynie, both 12th-grade students at RCA, will hold A Night for Change from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the school, located at 1064 Culpepper Drive off Parker Road in Conyers. The event is part of their service project for the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America Club.

Thanks to help from area businesses, fellow students and employees in the Rockdale school system, the event will offer free dinner, clothing, job placement assistance, car dealer and real estate information, health screenings, financial advice and other services to needy families in Newton, Rockdale and DeKalb counties. They also will have a kid zone set up and have bilingual translators available.

"This will let them know people are thinking about them and reassure them that people care and want to help them and love them," Haynie said. "They need to know that they are not alone and people are here with open arms."

Last year, at least 100 needy families in Rockdale came to the event.

"We met a lot of people - some were living in their cars or just lost their jobs," Taylor said. "Even with all that, though, they were friendly and still smiling."

She said the families were so appreciative and the experience weighed on their hearts so much that they wanted to duplicate and expand the program this year.

"We thought we would be able to reach out to more people," Taylor said. "Last year, we met so many families and knew something small helped a lot."

They plan to help about 200 families this year.

"We know times are hard and want them to know we've done this for them," Taylor said.

Even though the two will graduate this year, they hope the event will continue in the future. Taylor is training her sister and some other students for next year.

"We feel like it's a good activity for kids to get involved in and a good use of time," Taylor said.

Last year, Taylor and Haynie won a gold medal at the annual state FCCLA competition; this year, they already have won gold at the region competition and will compete in the state competition next week.

"These are two of the most outstanding students I've ever had," said Jesseca Causey, FCCLA advisor at RCA. "They are self-motivated and self-directed. They're awesome."

Taylor plans to attend Kennesaw State University to study early childhood education, while Haynie wants to study to become a high school teacher so she can teach family and consumer science.

Those who would like to donate items or services for the event should call Causey at RCA, 770-388-5677, ext. 3185.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: If You Go

· What: A Night for Change

· Who: Families in Rockdale, Newton and DeKalb counties

· When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday

· Where: Rockdale Career Academy, 1064 Culpepper Drive, Conyers

· For more information or to donate items and services, call Jesseca Causey at RCA, 770-388-5677, ext. 3185.