A Florida sophomore didn’t expect the first day of the school year would land her in headlines nationwide or put her on rapper T.I’s radar.
But when 15-year-old Danielle Aiken came up 15 cents short for her food in a reduced lunch program at central Florida’s University High School, a cafeteria worker threw away the food she had on her tray, WKMG reported.
Her mom, Kimberly Aiken, was outraged. The Volusia County Public Schools’ spokesman vowed to work “with students and families as needed” after the Aug. 14 incident and said school officials would reach out to the Aiken family “to resolve this issue.”
T.I., the Georgia rapper born Clifford Joseph Harris whose hits include performances with Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake, Lil Wayne and Rihanna, didn’t wait.
On Aug. 19, T.I. tweeted that this kind of treatment “keeps kids from coming to school” and said, “I’d like to take care of her school lunch for the year.”
So far, T.I. hasn’t made good on his promised gift. But Kimberly Aiken is gratified by the attention his posts on Twitter and Instagram generated.
“He has not reached out to me but I’m happy he’s talked about it to bring about more attention to the actual situation,” Aiken said in an interview with the Miami Herald Wednesday.
“My main concern is to make sure this doesn’t happen to any other child. I’m willing and waiting to speak with him about his sticking with a follow through and hopefully it will happen. I know he’s a busy guy and there are other things going on in the world. But even though it hasn’t happened yet, I’m happy there have been other people who have pledged to donate to help the cause, ” Aiken said.
Aiken wasn’t taking any chances. On the same day T.I. tweeted, she joined with the Washington-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to make a GoFundMe page for students and their families who live in poverty and can’t afford school lunch.
“More than 13 million children go to school hungry — 22 million rely on reduced-price or free school lunches through the National School Lunch Program,” Derrick Robinson, director of communications for the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, told the Herald Wednesday.
“There is no reason for University High to have turned away Danielle for 15 cents. No student should be penalized because of their poverty. The humiliation and stigma associated with cases similar to Danielle’s is palpable. We have not heard back from the superintendent or principal but we will continue putting the pressure on and remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure school systems around the country examine their polices concerning unpaid meal fees, and consider the impact such policies have on children and families,” Robinson said.
The group has a $10,000 goal for its GoFund Me campaign. After 10 days, they’ve raised more than T.I. offered — $2,237, by Wednesday afternoon, from 97 people.
As for Danielle, her mom says she’s doing well. “She’s a fire cadet and is staying focused on finishing school so she can become a fire fighter.”