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Flowery Branch High students give big to help CASA
Norma Espinoza, a student at Flowery Branch High School, looks for a spot to put a stack of gifts that students collected for children in the Court Appointed Special Advocates Program. - photo by Tom Reed

Despite the dread of final exams, students at Flowery Branch High School are getting into the holiday spirit.

Christmas cheer echoed in the cafeteria Friday afternoon as members of the DECA club and the student council made 45 abused or neglected children from Court Appointed Special Advocates smile at the school’s second annual Christmas party for the organization.

CASA assists neglected children in the courts system and helps see that they are placed in stable home environments.

“We so often get caught up in our own lives, and we don’t realize what is going on around us, and this is a great way to help others and focus on our community,” said Emily Wilson, a member of the student council.

Jamie Bennett, a DECA member, said it is important for high school students to get involved with organizations like CASA to understand that there are other people out there who don’t have everything that the students do.

“It is fun to see their faces as they open their presents and are really excited,” Bennett said.

Fellow DECA member Sarah Lemaux said the club prepared for the Christmas party all day on Friday.

“We’ve been getting the bags ready, having a big pep rally, and getting the whole school motivated,” Lemaux said.

Lemaux said she has enjoyed being able to give things to the kids at no cost.

“After all they have been through as foster kids, I think that they should have a fun Christmas,” she said.

Richard Darracott, a marketing and law teacher at Flowery Branch High School, said getting the high school students involved with CASA is “a good experience for students to have.”

“They are willing to help because it is Christmas, and they understand how it is for underprivileged children,” Darracott said.

Members of DECA and the student council were given a list of the wants and needs of the children, including their age, clothing size and what activities they enjoy. They were able to spend a minimum of $150 on each child.

Darracott said that he would like to see this project evolve in the future and cover each and every CASA kid in Hall County.

“A lot of us can’t afford $150 gifts outside of our regular bills, but we could chip in 10 or 15 dollars a piece,” Darracott said. “It is a joint effort with the community to help those in need.”

Wes Reed, president of the Flowery Branch student council, said he loved helping with the CASA event this year.

“Getting to shop for other people and knowing that I’m helping out the community is wonderful,” Reed said. “My favorite part is definitely the CASA party because we get to meet who we helped and see how our hands helped out the community.”

Carla Cannon, a CASA volunteer, has been teaming up with Flowery Branch High School for the past five years to connect high school students with CASA children.

“It is just amazing what these kids do every year,” Cannon said. “In today’s world, there are teenagers that seem like they don’t care, but when you come here and talk to these classes, you can see the students’ hearts through their eyes when they hear about these kids.”

Many other Hall County schools are getting involved this winter season and giving back to the community.

West Hall Middle School and C.W. Davis Middle School are both hosting toy drives, while Mount Vernon Elementary is sponsoring a Secret Santa program.

Chestatee High School’s Interact Club is having a Toys for Tots drive until the 18th, and the student council will be helping with the Salvation Army on Dorsey Street this morning from 8 to noon. Also, Chestatee’s Foreign Language Club is collecting clothing, toys and wrapped gifts for Headstart.