Valerie Castile, the mother of Philando Castile who was murdered by a Minnesota police officer in 2016 during a traffic stop, is keeping her son’s legacy of helping the community alive. Last week, Valerie delivered a check for $8,000 to Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope, Minn., to clear the lunch debts of seniors who are preparing to graduate. The check came from the Philando Castile Relief Foundation and was used to help families who have been unable to pay back the debt over an extended period of time.
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Before he was killed, Philando Castile would often help students who couldn’t afford to pay for school lunches by paying for their food out of his own pocket. It was his way of lessening the burden of debt for many families. Philando was shot to death as he reached for his license by former police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, who was later found not guilty and acquitted of all charges. His death captured national attention which sparked protests against police brutality. The shooting was streamed on Facebook Live by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds.
Valerie Castile has continued the work her son loved to do. And she stated that Philando “still breathes” through each of those students. It’s a powerful analysis of life especially for someone who lost her only son in such a tragic manner.
“Our kids are the future leaders of our country and we need to take care of them in every way possible,” Valerie said. “Most families live paycheck to paycheck, and the last thing they need to be worrying about is how can I pay this debt at the end of the year.”
Helping others “is the way to keep Philando alive, [because] it was something that he did, and he started,” she said. “What I’m doing [are] things that my son felt in his heart, and that’s children, family, and community.
School lunch debt is a huge problem in the United States with seemingly no viable solution in sight. According to the non-profit School Nutrition Association, a national survey found more than 75% of school districts reported having unpaid student meal debt at the end of the 2016-17 school year. When students don’t pay their lunch debts, they risk humiliation, not graduating and not being fed in some cases.
The Philando Castile Relief Foundation has helped alleviate lunch debt in the St. Paul district and it awards a yearly scholarship of $5,000 to a St. Paul Central High School senior.
Last year, Valerie Castile raised more than $130,000 to pay off the lunch debts for every school in the St. Paul school district in honor of her son who was taken away too soon.