The mother of Philando Castile, a school cafeteria worker who was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop in 2016, is helping high school students clear their lunch debts so they can graduate.
Valerie Castile delivered a check for $8,000 to Robbinsdale Cooper High School in Minnesota late last month, to pay off the lunch bills of seniors preparing to graduate. The money came from the Philando Castile Relief Foundation, established after his death to provide immediate assistance to parents experiencing loss of a loved one from gun violence, and is carrying on his legacy by helping families pay the negative lunch balances in St. Paul and Minneapolis. “Our vision is that The Philando Castile Feeds The Children campaign expands nationally, maybe globally,” the foundation states on its website.
Castile told CBS affiliate WCCO that her son had been passionate about the issue of students going into debt in order to eat. At the St Paul school where Philando worked, “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,” Valerie said.
Last year, the charity Philando Feeds the Children, created to honor the late cafeteria worker, raised more than $130,000 and used it to extinguish the lunch debts for every school in the St Paul, Minnesota system, USA Today reports.
“Our kids are the future leaders of our country and we need to take care of them in every way possible,” Castile told the Star Tribune on Friday. “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.”
Philando Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, streamed the 2016 incident in which he died on Facebook Live, later describing to reporters how the events had unfolded. Footage later emerged of Reynolds being comforted by her 4-year-old daughter in the back of a police car, as she struggled to make sense of what had just transpired. Castile’s death captured national attention and sparked protests against police brutality and excessive use of force.
The officer who shot Castile, Jeronimo Yanez, was charged with second-degree manslaughter and firearms violations, but acquitted of all charges by a Ramsey County jury. He later resigned.
“I’m just doing whatever I can to bring a little relief into people’s lives, and everything I do revolves around my son and who he was,” Valerie Castile said.
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.”