Season Bennett, a barbershop owner in Charlotte, North Carolina, has raised $4,500 to cover the debt of 14 local high school seniors who otherwise would have been denied a diploma.
The entrepreneur, who owns Headlines Barbershop with her husband, said she was inspired to pay it forward in her community after billionaire Robert F. Smith pledged to pay off the student loan debt for all of Morehouse College’s 2019 graduates.
On her GoFundMe page, Bennett explains that after hearing about Smith’s commitment, she called her local high school to find out how many students are in jeopardy of not graduating because they owe fees.
“We were told that there are 14 seniors at East Mecklenburg High School who can’t walk at graduation or receive their diploma because they owe money,” Bennett wrote. “This would even prevent them from being able to go to college because they would be unable to receive their final transcript until their balances have been paid in full.”
After launching her campaign on May 22, Bennett received a surprise donation from Carolina Panthers’ player Thomas Davis who found out about the GoFundMe page through his daughter.
“He said, ‘You know what, whatever need you have left over, we’re going to make sure these students graduate,’” Bennett tells local news station WBTV.
Though Davis’s donation has already helped Bennett to surpass her $4,500 goal, the barbershop owner says she will continue to accept donations on the GoFundMe page in order to send the remaining money to the local school’s Anti-Suicide Program.
Bennett, who says she’s just happy to be lending a helping hand, says one student sent her a message saying, “Word cannot express how thankful I am of you all. I no longer have to worry and stress about graduating.”