Season Bennett, who owns Headlines Barbershop, decided to rally the community to raise money to help 12th-graders at East Mecklenburg High School graduate.
The move was spurred by Smith’s viral pledge to give $40 milllion to cover the loan debut accumulated by Morehouse College’s 2019 graduating class.
Bennett made the call to the EMHS, which is down the street from her business, to see if any seniors needed assistance in settling debts that would otherwise prohibit them from getting their diplomas on the graduation stage, according to WBTV.
“I thought, ‘Wow, that is just such a powerful thing for anybody,’” Bennett told the station Tuesday, May 28. “So many students go into so much debt just trying to get an education.
“It seems like that’s just basic in our culture,” she added. “You need to get at least your high school diploma.”
When she got in touch with East Mecklenburg, she discovered 14 students needed to pay fees to the school. The debts totaled $4,500 and if that amount wasn’t paid, the school district policy states the students won’t be able to advance past 12th grade.
“I just think about that quote by Martin Luther King when he says you don’t have to see the whole staircase, you just have to take the first step,” Bennett explained.
Not knowing what the fees were for, Bennett got to work urging residents to pitch in and donate to a GoFundMe account that would benefit the 14 students in need.
“I said, ‘You know what, we don’t deserve a lot of the blessings we get, but we get them anyway,’ so I said, ‘I don’t need to know what it’s for,’” Bennett said.
Soon, however, Bennett discovered the fees were linked to the pupils’ participation in band.
“I know some people were thinking ‘Oh, maybe there was damaged property,’ or these kinds of things, and I said, ‘These kids are doing something good, they’re on the band, they’re having school spirit,’” she explained.
The campaign also caught the attention of former Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis after his daughter alerted him to the effort.
“He said, ‘You know what, whatever need you have left over, we’re going to make sure these students graduate,’” Bennett recalled. She told CBS News that Davis gifted $4,000 to the effort.
The barbershop owner later had the pleasure of calling up EMHS and informing them that the students’ fees have been taken care of and they’ll be able to get their diplomas with no issues, WBTV reported.
“One girl fell to her knees, and she said, ‘I have to call my mom,’” Bennett recalls. “She said her mom was working on getting a loan.”
The identities of the 14 students are not disclosed per CMS policy. However, Bennett told the news station that one sent her a thankful text message.
“Words cannot express how thankful I am of you all. I no longer have to worry and stress about graduating,” it said in part.
In an update shared to the GoFundMe page, Bennett noted the campaign surpassed its goal. As such, the remainder of the funds will be given to EMHS’s Anti-Suicide Program.