Philando Castile's mother is carrying on his legacy by relieving hundreds of high school seniors from debt that often plagues children with a lack of access to funds for daily nutrition.

Minnesota CBS reports Valerie Castile donated $8,000 to Cooper High School on Thursday to pay off the daily lunch fees accumulated by high school seniors. Students who are unable to pay off these fees may be ruled ineligible to graduate. 

“For those students to know that they can graduate now without having a bill, I can’t tell you how big it is,” expressed Superintendent Carlton Jenkins of Robbinsdale Area Schools.

The donation covered the debts of 334 graduating seniors, but the topic of lunch fees continues to be an issue for the entire school. Currently, the district has a $300,000 lunch debt, which significantly increases when expanded to a statewide view. 

Robbinsdale Area Schools Nutrition Director Adele Lillie also thanked Valerie and her foundation for the often overlooked necessity to feed growing and learning children, according to the school district.

“We are so grateful for this donation and the generosity of the Philando Castile Feeds the Children campaign,” said Lillie. "The impact of this donation will reach many students and allow families to focus on celebrating the seniors’ upcoming graduation."

The Philando Castile Relief Foundation was established in 2017 to carry on the legacy of Valerie's son who worked as a school nutrition aide for 15 years. Castile was murdered in his car by an on-duty police officer during a routine pull-over for driving with a broken taillight in 2016, as Blavity reports. His girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter were in the vehicle with him at the time of the incident.

The 32-year-old was affectionately called Mr. Phil by students at J.J. Hill Montessori School, where he supervised the cafeteria. He's remembered as someone who knew every student's name, allergies and PINs. Most importantly, he emphasized the importance of the first meal of each day. Philando was known as a local hero and honorable man among the school officials, parents and attendees. 

Previously, Philando's foundation donated $10,000 to his place of employment to continue spreading his message and generosity to the community of students he valued and supported up until his death.

“The Foundation is designed by all the things Philando held dear to his heart: children, family and the community,” said Valerie at the donation ceremony. “He’d pay for children’s lunch meals out of his own pocket instead of letting a child go hungry; that day he would pay for it himself."

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