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It took a flood for Arielle to finally get the help she needed for her disability. Arielle was living in New Orleans in 2005, barely passing each grade level as she tried to stay afloat. No one noticed. Then Hurricane Katrina hit. Suddenly she and her mom were living in Elk Grove and felt like they were drowning in diagnoses of “speech delay” and “learning disability.”

Arielle’s mom felt like she had tried everything to help Arielle and nothing was working.

Desperate for help, Arielle’s mom called UCP’s Family Respite Services, and a new flood entered their life – a flood of help and care from UCP respite worker Towanda.

Towanda not only connected the family to community resources and gave Arielle’s mom a much-needed break, she took on Arielle as a little sister, connecting her to after-school programs and connecting her to Theta Rho, a girls’ club that promotes leadership and self-advancement in the community.

“I went from straight Fs to straight As,” Arielle said. “Towanda is awesome. She told me I could get straight As and she helped me get my grades up and helped me with my problems.”

In summer 2012, Arielle had the chance to enter a United Nations speech contest through Theta Rho. She was named a finalist and received an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City to compete – a trip she will remember for the rest of her life.

“Everything changed when she finally realized I wasn’t going to give up on her, that I saw something in her,” Towanda said.

Now as she prepares to graduate high school and considers going to college to become a teacher, Arielle knows Towanda will be by her side – not only as her UCP respite worker, but as her big sister.

UCP’s Family Respite Care services provide a much needed mental break.