In­side: Kingston school district res­i­dent seeks to erase stu­dents’ lunch debts

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Wil­liam J. Kem­ble news@free­manon­

Jill Draper is on a mis­sion to erase the debt stu­dents owe for lunches in the Kingston school district.

Draper says it seems like a small way to make a big dif­fer­ence in im­prov­ing the lives of chil­dren.

“This writer, Ash­ley C. Ford, sug­gested small lo­cal ac­tions that could make a dif­fer­ence,” Draper said at Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing of the Kingston Board of Ed­u­ca­tion. “One of the ac­tions she sug­gested was call­ing your lo­cal school district and clear the lunch debt ... be­cause chil­dren ac­crue the lunch debt and it fol­lows them through their en­tire school­ing.”

Draper started by in­quir­ing about the debt at John F. Kennedy El­e­men­tary School, and learned it was $200 in De­cem­ber, when she started the ef­fort.

“I started with Kennedy be­cause I live in the neigh­bor­hood,” she said.

“It wasn’t a lot, and I had com­mit­ted that I would put $500 in,” Draper said. “I thought that’s what I could af­ford. When I heard that $200 could cover an en­tire school, I wanted to know how much fur­ther this could go with a lit­tle help.”

Draper said she now has a goal of eras­ing the en­tire $5,877.37 debt across the district.

“I con­tacted some lo­cal busi­ness own­ers, some pri­vate cit­i­zens, I used my In­sta­gram and got a group to­gether, and we cov­ered some of the school district’s lunch debt,” she said. “We’re at $1,425, and we’re at about 10 of us [con­trib­u­tors] to­tal.”

Stu­dent lunch debt, which ac­crues when a stu­dent gets a meal but doesn’t pay for it, ranges from about $75 to $387 at the district’s seven el­e­men­tary schools, is a com­bined $2,305 at the two mid­dle schools and is just over $1,854 at Kingston High School, ac­cord­ing to district fig­ures.

District Su­per­in­ten­dent Paul Padalino said the debt fol­lows stu­dents as they go through the sys­tem.

“A lot of this is back­logged for a cou­ple of years,” he said.

Draper, who spins yarn and makes wool prod­ucts, said de­vel­op­ing a large fundraiser was not part of her ini­tial plan be­cause she had not pre­vi­ously par­tic­i­pated in a cam­paign to raise money.

“This is the first fundrais­ing I’ve ever done,” she said. “I’ve do­nated to causes be­fore, but I’ve never ac­tively run fundrais­ing. But I have 12,000 In­sta­gram fol­low­ers ... so it’s nice to be able to lever­age that a lit­tle bit for causes that I be­lieve in.”


Jill Draper

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