Billionaire Robert F. Smith’s act of kindness has inspired other entrepreneurs across the country to pay it forward. A Black-owned barbershop in North Carolina raised money to help high school seniors pay off their debt so they would be able to graduate, WBTV reported.
After seeing Smith’s commencement speech—where he promised to eliminate the student loan debt of Morehouse College’s entire 2019 graduating class—Season Bennett was prompted to do something special for students in Charlotte. Bennett, who owns Headlines Barbershop with her husband, got in contact with the staff at East Mecklenburg High School to see if any seniors had outstanding debts that would prevent them from graduating. After learning that 14 students collectively had $4,500 in debt, Bennett decided to raise funds for the teenagers. Many of the fees they had were tied to their participation in the school’s band program.
With the help of her local community, she was able to raise enough money to cover the debt. NFL player Thomas Davis was instrumental in helping Bennett and the barbershop reach its goal. “It seems like that’s just basic in our culture. You need to get at least your high school diploma,” Bennett told the news outlet.
Several individuals have stepped up to help high school students pay off their debt to walk across the graduation stage and receive their hard-earned diplomas. In May Valerie Castile—the mother of Philando Castile—paid off the lunch debt for students at Robbinsdale Cooper High School so that they could graduate. Outstanding high school lunch debt has become an evolving issue across the country. According to USA Today, 75 percent of school districts in the U.S. had unpaid student meal debt during the 2016-2017 academic year.