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Daken Kramer. Courtesy photo.

Blue Springs fifth-grader pays off entire school’s student lunch debt

Thanks to an enterprising fifth-grader, students at Thomas Ultican Elementary in Blue Springs are heading into summer break with no lunch debt. Daken Kramer gave the school a check for more than $7,300, which paid off all of the debt and then some.

“Children in elementary school should not have debt tied to their name,” his mother, Vanessa Kramer, told CNN. “We have found out that there are high schools that keep seniors from attending prom or walking at graduation if they have stuff like student lunch debt. Some families can’t help it. They can’t pay it off.”

In a video shared on his mom’s Facebook page, Daken had challenged “friends, family and local businesses to donate what they can to this cause.” Upon Daken’s request, Kramer reached out to Blue Springs School District to get information about the school’s meal debt. Soon, the fundraiser was spreading to states such as Texas, Florida and New Jersey. Within a matter of two weeks, Daken’s fundraiser more than doubled his goal.

The Daken Kramer Legacy Award now will be an annual honor for fifth-graders striving to make their own mark.

“Your selfless actions will impact dozens of students throughout the district,” Kristi Haley, Daken’s teacher, said as she announced the award in his name. “It’s not the amount of money you raised, although that was absolutely incredible. It’s your heart, your drive, your determination and your grit to help others that inspires us.”

Daken said the award was unexpected. “It was definitely a surprise,” he said. “I had no idea that they were going to do that, and I definitely started to feel a lot of emotions.”

lunch for an elementary schooler in the Blue Springs School District is $2.55, with the reduced price being 40 cents for students in need, according to the district. About 29 percent of the roughly 15,000 students enrolled in the Blue Springs School District are eligible for a free or reduced lunch, district spokesperson Katie Woolf said

Although Daken’s fundraiser cleared his school’s meal debt, the Blue Springs School District meal debt totals to more than $235,000, according to Woolf. The district includes 20 schools at varying levels.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice

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