A simple act of kindness can go a long way.
Missouri student DeJuan Strickland paid it forward to McCurdy Elementary School, his former school in Florissant, MO, by paying off students’ lunch debt, ABC News reports. The 14-year-old’s idea to create a GoFundMe fundraiser for the school was sparked by his own experience during his elementary days when he was not able to afford school lunch.
“This is important to me because sometimes the only nutritious meal for kids is at school,” Strickland wrote in the description about the fundraiser.
According to the outlet, Strickland exceeded his goal of raising $200 and received $400 from supporters, which he personally delivered to McCurdy Elementary School.
“They told me stories about how kids, there was a kid who didn’t have enough money to pay for school lunch or pay for the pizza, and they were able to pull it from the fund and they’re able to have pizza at school that day,” he shared. “It was amazing, and I’m really happy.”
Following the success of the fundraiser, Strickland expanded his mission by aiming to clear school lunch debt in the entire Hazelwood School District — totaling 28 schools and other educational programs in the St. Louis area.
“It’s crazy, because a lot of other schools in like different countries or anything, they don’t have a problem with negative lunch balances, cause it’s free,” Strickland said. “So it’s like, you know, why are they like that? Why is it free over there and not over here?”
Strickland’s fundraising campaign for the district has raised more than $4,000, per the outlet.
According to the Education Data Initiative, the debt for national public school meals is $262 million a year, and Missouri alone is estimated to have nearly $44 million. Strickland shared that he had witnessed the widespread issue when he found that a nearby school district also had high lunch debt totaling $50,000.
His awareness of those struggling and motivation to help others was something he learned from his mother, who used to provide those in need with “blessing bags” of toiletries and socks, he says. And he intends to continue his charity efforts.
Right now, Strickland also spends time creating his own comic book series that tells the story of “Tech Boy and Science Girl, teenagers who use the power of science and technology to defeat villains.” What’s more, he plans to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to one day to become a computer programmer and further give back to his community and beyond.