These days having a high school diploma is a pretty basic expectation. Almost every job requires applicants to have, at minimum, a high school education. So, when a barbershop owner in Charlotte, North Carolina learned that several students at the local high school were risking not graduating due to unpaid fees, she decided to do something to help.
The story of one billionaire’s promise to pay off the student debt of an entire graduating class has inspired barbershop owner Season Bennett to take action in her own community.
“I thought, ‘Wow, that is just such a powerful thing for anybody,’” Bennett told WBTV. “So many students go into so much debt just trying to get an education.”
Feeling motivated, the shop owner decided to contact East Mecklenburg High School, located down the street.
She wondered if a lack of funds was keeping any students from earning their diplomas.
“It seems like that’s just basic in our culture,” Bennett said. “You need to get at least your high school diploma.”
Bennett was told that 14 seniors at the school had unpaid fees totaling $4,500 which would prevent them from graduating.
“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,” she said.
The business owner took action, reaching out to the community and asking for help even though she didn’t know what the fees were for.
“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.
She later learned several of the seniors owed money to the school’s band program, which didn’t discourage her in the least.
“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.’”
It wasn’t long before Bennett’s fundraising caught the attention of local celebrity Thomas Davis who offered to help.
“Thomas Davis’ daughter saw it, and she told her dad about it,” she said. “And he said, ‘You know what, whatever need you have left over, we’re going to make sure these students graduate.’”
A phone call to the high school let each of the seniors know they would be graduating and their reactions were overwhelming.
"One girl dropped to her knees…"
14 East Mecklenburg High School seniors were in danger of not graduating, because of fees owed to the school.
— Amanda Foster WBTV (@AFosterWBTV) May 28, 2019
“One girl fell to her knees, and she said, ‘I have to call my mom,’” Bennett said. “She said her mom was working on getting a loan.”
One grateful recipient even sent the shop owner a note which read, “Words cannot express how thankful I am of you all. I no longer have to worry and stress about graduating.”