Students sell lemonade to help pay off their school district's $41,000 lunch debt

Two students in North Carolina are helping their school district pay off $41,000 in cafeteria debt, one cup of lemonade at a time.

Hailey, 13, and Hannah Hager, 11, may be young, but with their lemonade stand, they’re demonstrating that they already understand the importance of giving back.

Their mom, Erin Hager, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that when the girls first decided to sell lemonade, they wanted to raise money for the hospice center that took care of their grandfather. When Erin found out about the debt impacting their local school district, however, the girls changed their cause.

It was Southwood Elementary School, where Hannah is a student, that reached out to Erin at first to explain that they were $3,100 behind on what they owed the federal government in cafeteria charges. At Central Davidson Middle School, where Hailey attends, that cost was $3,500 and district-wide it was $41,000. There are 36 schools in total within the Davidson County Schools district.

The number is big and certainly ambitious, but Hailey and Hannah decided that it would be their goal.

Two students in North Carolina are helping their school district pay off school lunch debt with a lemonade stand. (Photo: Facebook)

“Our plan is to go Hailey’s school, Hannah’s school, high school, of course that’s where they’re both gonna end up going, and just wherever we can help out next,” Erin explains of where the money raised will be going. “Everything that they’ve done so far, we’ve donated 100 percent.”

On Monday, the girls dropped off their first check for $460, and are hoping that the amount that they make each weekend only continues to increase. Erin is hopeful that it will.

“They’re just out there flailing and waving at people, trying to get people to stop by,” Erin says of the girls’ efforts to get passersby to donate. “Now, with the news coming out and they’ve got their own [Facebook] page, it’s blown up. They have such a huge goal now. The opportunity is endless.”

Not only are the girls getting the recognition for their efforts, but also the community is pitching in to make their dream a reality.

“A local lemonade stand talked about sometime before this weekend donating some lemons and maybe cups, which is phenomenal because I’ve kind of actually gotten scared of how we’re gonna be able to afford to keep doing it,” Erin says. “They’ve had a couple of friends over who have been able to help, and they really enjoyed doing that. I had a couple of their parents stay over to help carry everything in, which was great.”

Southwood Elementary School Principal Ashley Lemley tells Yahoo Lifestyle that any effort by the students is greatly appreciated, admitting that it’s not difficult for a family to fall behind on payments.

“We do not believe in giving students an alternative lunch; therefore, they are allowed to continue to charge. This can lead to to charges getting quite high,” Lemley says. “I could not be more proud of Hannah and Hailey for wanting to help others. They are truly amazing students who are going to continue to do great things in our community. They are showing initiative, kindness and empathy toward others.”

Erin is also tremendously proud of her daughters who have learned from the example that she and her husband, Nick, set for them.

“I just want to give back, I want to help people, I want to be there,” Erin says. “I want people to know that there’s people who care in the world and that there’s so many people and causes that need help.”

People who can’t make it to the lemonade stand in North Carolina can now donate to the cause through a Facebook donation page set up by the Hagers.

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