Family inspired by Philando Castile pays off lunch debt of 208 students

A family in Washington says they were inspired by Philando Castile to pay off the lunch debt of more than 200 students in their school district. 

A post on the Philando Castile Relief Foundation’s Facebook page said Susan Arksey and her family donated $533.62 to pay off the current lunch debt of 208 students in the Lake Stevens School District. The district confirmed the family's donation. 

The Philando Castile Relief Foundation is a nonprofit created by the Castile family in honor of Philando, who was fatally shot by a St. Anthony police officer during a traffic stop in 2016. The foundation raises money to cover the costs of breakfasts and lunches for students in the Twin Cities who have an unpaid balance at the end of the year. 

Arksey told the Castile family that Philando’s actions as a nutrition supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori in St. Paul inspired her to make the donation. Philando was known to pay for students out of his own pocket who did not have enough money for lunch. 

“It is Philando’s legacy of love and friendliness to kids that inspired me to do this,” Arskey said. 

The family donated the money in honor of their daughter, who was killed in a drive-by shooting while walking with her fellow ninth grade classmates in 2013.  

Valerie Castile, Philando's mother, says it means so much to see others give back in her son's memory.

"He was a wonderful individual and he is still doing diligence from the other side," said Castile. "His spirit is all around us."

Philando inspired similar actions from a group of students a Metro State University last year. A diversity and ethics professor and her students started a crowdfunding campaign called “Philando Feeds the Child” with the goal of raising enough money to cover the entire student lunch debt at J.J. Hill. 

Since the campaign started in September, Philando Feeds the Children has raised over $100,000 – more than enough money to cover the lunch debts at J.J. Hill. Earlier this year, the class used the funds to pay off the lunch debts at all 56 schools in the St. Paul Public Schools district.