“Humans of New York” has been a social media sensation and a digital craze for quite some time. The project aims to capture the lovable, unique and sometimes downright bizarre moments of pure humanity that unfold throughout the streets of New York.
Lately, however, it served as a catalyst for a young boy inspired by his principal to help raise more than $1 million for his middle school.
One of the most recent photographs to make its way to the Humans of New York site featured a Mott Hall Bridges Academy student by the name of Vidal.
The school is tucked away in Brownsville, Brooklyn, which is known as a “safe zone in a crime-plagued neighborhood.”
Humans of New York creator Brandon Stanton launched an initiative to help fund a class trip for the Mott Hall Bridges scholars. The trip would take the class to Harvard so the students could broaden their horizons and get an idea of where they could end up if they remained focused and worked hard.
Of course, that’s also a message the young boys and girls were reminded of every day.
Mott Hall Bridges Academy principal Nadia Lopez may have unconventional methods, but they are methods that have proven to be quite effective if you ask Vidal.
When Vidal’s photo was snapped for the Humans of New York website, Stanton asked him who was the most influential person in his life.
He got an answer he had never received before — his principal.
“When we get in trouble, she doesn’t suspend us,” Vidal said of Lopez. “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 of us that we matter.”
When that answer was shared with Humans of New York’s 12 million-plus Facebook followers, the donations to the campaign’s Indiegogo page started to pour in.
The goal was to raise $100,000.
The campaign reached that goal in about 45 minutes.
The Indiegogo page has now soared past the $1 million mark.
For Lopez, it was a shocking turnout but something that restored hope at a time when the community needed it the most.
“Before all this happened for our school, I felt broken,” she said in a posting on the Humans of New York Facebook page. “And I think the world felt a little broken too, because a lot of bad things have been happening lately, especially between black people and white people. But all of you gave people a reason to feel a little less broken.”
She said the children aren’t referred to as “students,” they are referred to as “scholars” and they wear purple because it 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,” she continued. “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.”
Now that the school has raised more than enough money to fund the trip to Harvard, they have announced plans for how the additional money will be spent.
The extra money will go toward summer programming for the school and a scholarship fund.
The scholarship fund will be named after Vidal, who will also be the first recipient.