An inner city kid talking to, and allowing his photo to be taken and shared by Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York had led to something amazing. The teenager opened up about his Principal Ms Lopez being his greatest influence and talked about the wonderful things she was doing for Mott Halls Bridges Academy.
The photographer decided to make a call to his HONY followers to fund children in this school to pay a visit to Harvard as a way to expose them to better opportunities and reward the principal. The fundraiser started on 23 January, and as today, they have raised almost $1 Million in less than a week!
How the HONY blogger made his pitch on Indiegogo;
We're going to send kids to Harvard! Well, not exactly. But we are going to send the students of Mott Hall Bridges Academy to visit Harvard.
'What's the big deal?' you ask.
Thanks for asking. Sometimes a visit to Harvard is more than just a visit to Harvard. Mott Hall Bridges Academy is a middle school located in Brownsville, Brooklyn-- the neighborhood with the highest crime rate in New York City. It's not the best place to be a kid.
So Principal Nadia Lopez (aka SuperWoman) has a plan for her Brownsville middle schoolers. At the beginning of every year, she wants to accompany the incoming 6th grade class on a tour of Harvard. Since many of her scholars have never left New York, she wants them to know what it feels like to stand on the campus of one of the world's top schools, and know that they belong. She thinks the experience will broaden their horizons and expand their idea of their own potential.
So let's help her make it happen.
This was the convo that was posted by the blog with the picture below;
"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."
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 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.”
After our first meeting, Ms. Lopez invited me to sit in on one of her staff meetings. It had been a tough week for many of the teachers, and from the heavy energy in the room, I could feel the immense difficulty of their jobs. "It can be especially hard when you come back from holiday break," Ms. Lopez explained. "Because it can feel like so much of the progress you made last semester was undone during the break. It's hard, it's hard, it's hard. And it's OK for you to feel like you want to give up. You can quit anytime you want, and I will pick up the phone and recommend you for a new job, because every one of you could succeed anywhere. But these kids need you. Our girls don't feel honored and respected. Our boys are being recruited into gangs. Your classrooms may be the one place they feel safe and respected. If we give up, there is nobody else. There is a system out there that is waiting for our scholars to show up in shackles and jumpsuits if we choose to give up on them." -------------------------------------------------We are currently holding a campaign to institute an annual class trip to Harvard for students at Ms. Lopez's school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy. Thanks to everyone who's donated, we have raised $185,000 in just a few hours. That is a transformative amount of money, and will fund this initiative for over six years. I would love to continue adding to the fund, so that this trip will become a permanent part of the school's backbone. In turn, it will hopefully help MHBA become a permanent part of the community's backbone. If you haven't already donated, please take a look: http://bit.ly/1JmIB8u To everyone who donated-- thank you, thank you, thank you. I truly fell in love with this school during my visits, and you have lent so much energy to it's mission.
Just came back from a quick meeting with Ms. Lopez at Mott Hall Bridges Academy, so we could discuss how to make the most impact with the amazing success of our fundraiser so far. ($365,000!) There was a wonderful energy in the school today, everyone was beyond thrilled and overwhelmed by your generosity. My favorite part of the day was when I walked into Ms. Lopez's office, and discovered that some of you had taken it upon yourselves to send her bouquets of flowers. I've said it before-- this is the most warm hearted group of people on the internet.
We've raised enough money in 24 hours to make the Harvard trip a permanent part of the MHBA curriculum. With two weeks left in the fundraiser, I sat down with Ms. Lopez today to learn the best way that we could continue to help her secure a bright future for her students. “We have a major need for a summer program,” she explained. “Learning stops during the summer for my scholars. We have what is called a ‘summer slide.’ My scholars can’t even go outside. It’s too dangerous. As an exercise, my teachers broke into small groups and took a walk through the community. We wanted to understand how our students live. We went inside the housing projects. The parks and playgrounds were empty because it’s too dangerous. Even the library isn’t a safe zone. Just last Saturday, one of my scholars had two guns pulled on him while he was walking to the community center. In broad daylight. It’s just too dangerous to be outside, so my scholars stay inside all summer. They aren’t learning to ride horses or drive boats, and they certainly aren’t traveling. They miss out on the enrichment available to children from more affluent neighborhoods. They need a safe place where they can do activities and continue to grow their minds. I tried to put together a program last summer, but I couldn’t afford it. I couldn’t really put together any activities, and I could only use teachers-in-training. I need the funds to put together a program with my own teachers so my students have a safe place where they can continue to grow outside of school.” Ms. Lopez estimates that an effective summer program will cost about $40,000 a year. So every $40,000 beyond the $350,000 we’ve already raised will provide another “safe and productive summer “ for the students at Mott Hall Bridges Academy. If you hadn’t already donated, please consider helping us continue to empower this visionary educator in her quest to transform her school and community. Link in bio.
One of the coolest things about this fundraiser is that it originated with a young man on the street, who chose to tell a stranger about the love and appreciation he had for his school principal. His name is Vidal, and I had a chance to reconnect with him during my visit to Mott Hall Bridges Academy. He could not possibly be a more polite or charismatic young man. “I want to own my own restaurant,” he told me. “When I was little, I used to watch my mom cook. Then I started cooking for myself when I was nine. I’d get the ingredients myself at the corner store and make something for my brothers. I just thought it was a good thing for an older brother to do. I can make curry chicken, jerk chicken, curry goat, fried rice, macaroni and cheese, and all kinds of stuff.” “What would you say has been your biggest accomplishment?” “Getting publicity for my school.” #BrownsvilleBrilliance ------------------------------------------------ The fundraiser inspired by Vidal has been an overwhelming blessing for his school, and has raised over $570,000 to help provide much needed programs for his classmates. If you’d like to help expand upon its success, you can do so by contributing. Link in bio.