"So many students go into so much debt just trying to get an education," says Season Bennett

By Jason Duaine Hahn
May 31, 2019 02:31 PM
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Credit: GoFundMe

While she may not make the cover of Forbes, a North Carolina barbershop owner wanted to do her part to relieve the debts of students in her community after hearing a rousing commencement speech from a billionaire.

When Season Bennett heard that investor Robert F. Smith had pledged to pay off the debts of the 400 students graduating from Morehouse College this year, to the tune of $40 million, she immediately understood how much an impact the charitable act was going to have on these young people with dreams of changing the world.

“I thought, ‘Wow, that is just such a powerful thing for anybody,’” Bennett, who owns Headlines Barbershop in Charlotte, told CBS affiliate WBTV. “So many students go into so much debt just trying to get an education.”

“It just seems like that’s just the basic in our culture,” Bennett said. “You need to get at least your high school diploma.”

Inspired by Smith’s generosity, Bennett contacted East Mecklenburg High School and inquired about the debts of any seniors that could keep them from graduating. That’s when she found out 14 students owed money to the school and were not going to receive their diploma until it was paid in full, in accordance with the district’s policy, the outlet said.

“We called the school to find out if there were any graduating seniors that wouldn’t be able to graduate because they owe fees,” Bennett wrote in the description of a GoFundMe page she started to pay off the student’s debt, which totaled $4,500. “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.”

She added: “We don’t know these students and may never have a chance to meet them, but we know that everyone should be entitled to the high school diploma that they earned.”

After posting the GoFundMe, Bennett helped to raise more than a $1,000, but she got the added boost she needed when the daughter of Carolina Panthers player Thomas Davis came across it.

“He said, ‘You know what, whatever need you have left over, we’re going to make sure these students graduate,’ ” Bennett recalled.

Thomas donated $4,000, which helped Bennett surpass the goal she needed to help the students pay off their debts. The rest will be going to an anti-suicide program, she wrote on the donation page.

“One girl fell to her knees, and she said, ‘I have to call my mom,’ ” Bennett told WBTV of the students’ reactions. “She said her mom was working on getting a loan.”

While she may not have the cash flow of a billionaire, Bennett managed to use her talents to help a group of students who felt the pressure mounting just as they should be celebrating a milestone.

“I just think about that quote,” Bennet explained, “by Martin Luther King Jr., when he says, ‘You don’t have to see the whole staircase, you just have to take the first step.’ “