U.S.: Missouri Student, 14, Praised for Paying Off All Student Lunch Debts at His Former School

DeJuan Strickland, a Missouri student, helped McCurdy Elementary School in Florissant, where he previously attended, by paying off the school’s lunch program’s debt.

According to Good Morning America, the 14-year-old was inspired to launch a GoFundMe fundraising for the institution after remembering what it was like to be hungry and unsure of how he would eat lunch at 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 raised $400 for the school, exceeding his initial $200 fundraising goal. Since then, he has decided to concentrate the initiative on eliminating school lunch debts across the whole Hazelwood School District, which includes 19 elementary schools, six middle schools, three high schools, and other educational facilities.

Over $4,000 has been received through the campaign, of which Strickland hopes to contribute $2,500 to Hazelwood and the remainder to another district in need of financial support.

According to WSAZ3, Yolanda Duncan, a St. Louis local, was struck by DeJuan’s charity after seeing his story on KMOV. She wanted to repay him for every penny he donated to McCurdy Elementary. She handed him a personal cheque for the amount he had given McCurdy Elementary to cover all outstanding student meal 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 went on to say that it would be a life-changing event just knowing that he has made a difference in the lives of other children. Strickland stated that his mother instilled in him a love of giving at a young age. She created “blessing bags” stocked with necessities for the underprivileged, such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, and socks.

The 14-year-old will begin classes at St. Louis University High School in the autumn. Every year, he strives to eliminate negative lunch balances at many elementary schools in the area.

The yearly national public school lunch debt is $262 million, according to the Education Data Initiative, a group that does educational research. According to the organization, Missouri has 243,110 children who do not have access to food, with a $43,905,666 debt for school meals.

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