Local 8th-grader appears on Good Morning America, surprised with huge donation
PORT ALLEN - A teen whose school project snowballed into a local phenomenon appeared on national television Tuesday.
Chase Neyland-Square, 13, appeared on Good Morning America's Strahan, Sara & Keke to talk about Pam's Pantry. It’s something that started as a mandatory class assignment for the 8th grader, a closet stuffed with items for anyone in need. But it turned into his passion.
"We come up with creative ideas to help improve the school. One of the things I felt the school needed is something to give back to school,” Chase said.
The cast of GMA not only surprised Chase with tickets to the smash hit Broadway show Hamilton, but they also presented him with a $10,000 donation from True Religion clothing.
The assignment is a product of the school's Student Program for Arts, Recreation, and Knowledge (STARC). It's where students come up with ideas and find ways to implement them. Chase's goal with his idea of the clothing pantry was to stop bullying. He felt that if all the students looked alike and had the same things, there would be no more teasing.
"Not only give to less fortunate classmates, but to help equal students in the classroom to eliminate bullying,” Chase said.
So he pitched his plan to their principal, and luckily for him there was already an empty closet waiting to be transformed. It wasn't long before the school held a donation drive where supplies started rolling in. Before they knew it, their barren little room was filled.
"The pantry started as two racks. Two racks of clothes, that was it. Then we tried to find some shelves, and then it blew up,” said Michelle Tureau, Chase’s teacher.
It grew so fast, they couldn't believe their eyes.
"From this little idea that was put on a slide, now we're trying to figure out how do we manage all this,” Tureau said.
The pantry blew up to the point that it grabbed national attention from places like Good Morning America, CBS News, and People Magazine in the past week.
"It puts a smile on my face because I knew I did something that would be here forever."
With a heart so full, Chase sat in the middle of that pantry that was once a deserted room.
"I'm just so grateful for this opportunity," said Chase, fighting back tears.
Filled with gratitude and disbelief, all he could do next is thank the people who got him there.
"My grandmother, my dad, who has always been there for me. Even if I didn't believe in myself he believed in me. My mom, she's just the most amazing mom in the world. She just pushes me to stay on top of my school work and do different things around the community to help improve the world,” Chase said.
But Chase's dream doesn't stop here. He hopes Pam's Pantry will grow into its own non-profit organization.
Chase, along with his principal and his teacher, will be on Good Morning America Tuesday to talk about the pantry. If you'd like to donate, you can contact Port Allen Middle or simply drop your items off at the school.