Popular photo blog, “Humans of New York” has stepped beyond the screen and changed the lives of a group of grade schoolers from New York by raising the funds for class trips to Harvard.
Nadia Lopez, principal of Motts Hall Bridges Academy in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn said, “This is a neighborhood that doesn’t necessarily expect much from our children, so at Mott Hall Bridges Academy we set our expectations very high. We don’t call the children ‘students,’ we call them ‘scholars.'”
A couple days back, I posted the portrait of a young man who described an influential principal in his life by the name of Ms. Lopez. Yesterday I was fortunate to meet Ms. Lopez at her school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy. “This is a neighborhood that doesn’t necessarily expect much from our children, so at Mott Hall Bridges Academy we set our expectations very high. We don’t call the children ‘students,’ we call them ‘scholars.’ Our color is purple. Our scholars wear purple and so do our staff. Because purple is the color of royalty. I want my scholars to know that even if they live in a housing project, they are part of a royal lineage going back to great African kings and queens. They belong to a group of individuals who invented astronomy and math. And they belong to a group of individuals who have endured so much history and still overcome. When you tell people you’re from Brownsville, their face cringes up. But there are children here that need to know that they are expected to succeed.”
Photographer Brandon Stanton and the fans of “Humans of New York” are helping these scholars set their sights even higher.
“It can be very difficult for them to dream beyond what they know.”
Stanton offered to use the reach of his blog and start a fundraiser to send classes of 6th graders on a trip to Harvard. The response from fans of Humans of New York was instant, overwhelming, and inspiring. The initial goal was set at $100,000 to fund three years of trips at $30,000, but in just one day donations of over $300,000 flooded in. The first class of students from Mott Hall Bridges Academy to go on this trip could be enrolled for their first year at Harvard before this money runs out.
“I want every child who enters my school to know that they can go anywhere, and that they will belong.”
I spent yesterday afternoon in a brainstorming session with Ms. Lopez and her assistant principal Ms. Achu, trying to think of creative ways that the HONY community could help further the vision of Mott Hall Bridges Academy. Our discussion covered many needs, but we kept returning to one in particular– the limited horizons of disadvantaged youth. Ms. Lopez’s school is situated in a neighborhood with the highest crime rate in New York, and many of her scholars have very limited mobility. Some of them are very much ‘stuck’ in their neighborhood. And many have never left the city. “It can be very difficult for them to dream beyond what they know,” Ms. Lopez explained. So the three of us struck on an idea. (OK, it was Ms. Achu’s idea, but we all agreed.) We want to create a fund that will provide each incoming 6th grade class at Mott Hall Bridges Academy a chance to get out of their neighborhood and visit a new place. And that place is Harvard University. “I want every child who enters my school to know that they can go anywhere, and that they will belong,” said Ms. Lopez. So we’re going to try to make it happen! Let’s help this visionary educator enrich the lives of her students. Please consider donating. Link in bio. A photo posted by Humans of New York (@humansofny) on
While Humans of New York, with over 2 million Instagram followers and almost 12 million Facebook fans, has a larger platform than most, this entire campaign started because one photographer talked to one boy.
“Who’s influenced you the most in your life?”
“My principal, Ms. Lopez.”
“…one time she made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter.”
"Who's influenced you the most in your life?" "My principal, Ms. Lopez." "How has she influenced you?" "When we get in trouble, she doesn't suspend us. She calls us to her office and explains to us how society was built down around us. And she tells us that each time somebody fails out of school, a new jail cell gets built. And one time she made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter."
We should all keep Ms. Lopez’s advice to heart. We all matter, and we can all make a difference in someone’s life.
If you want to donate to the Humans of New York fundraiser, please visit the Indiegogo campaign.
Have you had a Ms. Lopez in your life? Share your story in the comments and we’ll share them next week.