DeJuan Strickland, a student in Missouri, made a positive contribution to McCurdy Elementary School in Florissant, where he previously attended, by clearing the debt owed by the school’s lunch program.
Good Morning America reported that the 14-year-old had the inspiration to start a GoFundMe fundraiser for the institution, remembering what it was like to be starving and unsure of how he would eat lunch in school in the past.
“The reason why I wanted to do that was because I’ve experienced not having enough money to pay for school lunches,” Strickland said to Fox56.
It wasn’t easy at the time for his mother, Sharron Prather. “One time I was on disability, so my income was fixed, and so we had times when food was rough,” Strickland’s mother disclosed.
The teen was compelled to make sure that nobody at his former school experienced that emotion. “This is important to me because sometimes the only nutritious meal for kids is at school,” he shared.
Strickland exceeded his initial $200 fundraising target by generating $400 for the school. Since then, he made the decision to focus the project on getting rid of school lunch debts throughout the whole Hazelwood School District, which has 19 elementary schools, six middle schools, three high schools, and other educational facilities.
Over $4,000 has been raised through the campaign, of which Strickland intends to donate $2,500 to Hazelwood and find another district that is in need of financial assistance for the remaining amount.
According to WSAZ3, Yolanda Duncan, a resident of St. Louis, was moved by DeJuan’s kindness after watching his tale on KMOV. She wanted to pay him back for every cent he gave to McCurdy Elementary. She presented him with a personal check to equal the sum he paid McCurdy Elementary to settle all outstanding student lunch arrears. “You paid off the students’ lunch debt, and I wanted to give it back to you. I just wanted to reward positivity,” she said to a very shocked Strickland.
“Just being able to see that kids can finally be able to eat school lunches and not have to worry about the money or cost of it will be amazing,” the teen said.
He added that it would be a life-changing experience just knowing that he had helped impact other kids’ lives and helped them out in their lives. Strickland expressed that his mother instilled a love of giving in him at a very young age. She developed “blessing bags” filled with supplies for the needy, including toothpaste, toothbrushes, and socks.
In the fall, the 14-year-old will enroll at St. Louis University High School. Every year, he wants to get rid of the negative lunch balances at several elementary schools in the neighborhood.
According to the Education Data Initiative, a group conducting research on education, the annual national public school lunch debt is $262 million. According to the organization, Missouri has 243,110 children who lack access to food, with a debt for school meals of $43,905,666.