Watch CBS News

High school students raise $260,000 for elderly custodian so he can retire

Three high school seniors from Callisburg, Texas, learned that an 80-year-old janitor at their school didn't have enough money to retire, so they decided to help him out. 

The trio — Greyson Thurman, Marti Yousko and Banner Tidwell — from Callisburg High School launched a GoFundMe campaign on Feb. 15 that generated more than 8,000 donations totaling about $260,000. Most of the donations came from Callisburg students and staff, the students said. 

"It's amazing," Callisburg High Principal Jason Hooper told CBS affiliate KXII. "The need that was met because of three kind kids — of all of our students who pitched in to meet that need," he said.

80-year-old Mr. James flanked (from left) by high school seniors Banner Tidwell, Marti Yousko, Greyson Thurman.  KXII News screenshot

Callisburg is a rural town near the Oklahoma border and has a population of roughly 300 people. The school district, with an annual budget of $12.5 million, consists of two school campuses, including a total enrollment of nearly 1,150 students, 86 teachers and 164 staff members.

The campaign for Mr. James went viral after Thurman posted a video on TikTok of the octogenarian cleaning a hallway. The video was accompanied by ambient music and text that included a link to a GoFundMe page.

"This is our 80 y/o janitor who had his rent raised and had to come back to work. Let's help Mr. James out," the post read. "No one his age should have to be cleaning our messes up to continue to live."

The video drew nearly 3,500 "likes" and 250 comments. Students closed the GoFundMe campaign on Friday.

Hooper told CBS MoneyWatch that Mr. James, who didn't want to disclose his full name, wants to avoid the spotlight. The school hired James last month and, not long after, "Our kids saw a need, went out and met it," Hooper said. 

The three students told KXII they felt compelled to help the custodian after he was forced out of retirement due to the rising cost of living in the north Texas area.  

Mr. James is hardly alone. An estimated 1.5 million retirees have had to rejoin the workforce due to high inflation, according to an Indeed analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data. About 1 in 6 retirees is considering returning to work in search of greater financial security, according to a survey published this month from Paychex. 

Inflation forces retirees to rejoin the workforce 02:10

"It's just so sad seeing an 80-year-old man having to do things that no 80-year-old person should have to do," Tidwell told KXII. 

Money generated from the campaign is enough to send Mr. James back into retirement, Hooper told CBS MoneyWatch. The principal said he hasn't talked to Mr. James about when he will leave the school, but "he's ready to go back to retirement and live the comfortable life." 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.