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Clemson student, 7, pays off lunch accounts for classmates

Every year, the Jackson family of Clemson likes to do something to benefit the community. In the past they have sponsored families for Christmas, given to food banks, and more. This year, however, daughter Julia, 7, decided she wanted to help other children at her school.

It was Julia’s goal to help pay off lunch accounts for other students at Clemson Elementary School.

“I don’t like kids not having lunch,” Julia said.

Alona, Julia’s mother, set a date for when they hoped to give a check to school principal Michelle Craddock. It gave them just over three weeks to raise as much as they could.

Their initial goal was $250, a hefty amount for the petite second grader. Alona said she went to social media and told family and friends that Julia could be their helper in exchange for a donation to the cause. She posted pictures and videos of Julia talking about what she wanted to do and how close she was to her goal. Then donations began pouring in.

“We got donations from all over — North Carolina, Florida, even New York,” Alona said.

It only took a week for Julia to meet her first goal. So she set a second one, which was also exceeded within days. So Julia set the bar even higher.

Craddock said she was made aware of Julia’s efforts from the beginning. She thought it was sweet for the little girl to want to help her fellow students. She said she was amazed that Julia wanted to pay it forward.

But what Craddock was not prepared for was Julia handing her the check. She said she received the envelope without looking at it, and she smiled as she posed for picture with Julia, happy for any student to think of others first.

“I paused to look down at the check that this sweet young lady was presenting to the school,” she said.

And she was baffled.

The check was for $750 — far more than anyone had anticipated, including Alona and Julia. According to Alona, tears sprung to the eyes of the school principal as she realized just how many students the donation would help.

Students at Clemson Elementary are never denied lunch because of an overdrawn account, but the balance to pay it off often grows each day. Craddock said trying to get on top of piling debt — even for school lunch — can be quite daunting for families in tight situations.

“The $750 that she had collected would help so many,” Craddock said. “What a blessing to our school family and to the Clemson community.”

She estimates that 20 different families were helped with the money raised by Julia.

And how did Julia feel about her accomplishment? She said she was happy and proud.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you raise, as long as you help someone,” she said.