by Rachel Warden
Affording college seems nearly impossible to many young students across the nation; in a rough neighborhood such as Brownsville in Brooklyn, New York, attending college, for most, is just a distant dream. However, thanks to blogger and photographer, Brandon Stanton, the spark of hope to attend college has been reignited. Stanton created a blog detailing the lives of native New Yorkers in his humanitarian photography project known as Humans of New York. The thirty year old photographer captures the candid lives of the locals through his photographs and interviews with the individuals. He captures the essence of humanity through simple questions in order to convey the life stories of those who are oftentimes overlooked throughout the crowded street scene of the Big Apple.
One day, while he was venturing the streets of New York taking portraits, Brandon Stanton met a young student named Vidal Chastanet. Stanton interviewed and photographed Chastanet, asking him, “Who’s influenced you the most in your life”? The young student replied, “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”. The picture went viral, acquiring over a million “likes” on Facebook. From this young boy, Stanton was inspired to meet Ms. Nadia Lopez. Previous to the fame of this photo, she was on the verge of quitting her job. She had been working at the Mott Hall Bridges Academy for many years, serving as a principal to middle school students. In a heartfelt speech to the student body, Ms. Lopez confesses, “I didn’t know I mattered. I didn’t know anybody cared what I was doing”. MHBA school focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics - also known as STEAM. The school was founded to help middle school students in Brownsville, Brooklyn to improve their community and learning experience through mentoring and special workshops geared toward reaching the hearts of the young students.
HONY teamed up with Principal Lopez to create a fundraiser to help raise money to send the students of Mott Hall Bridges Academy on an annual trip to visit Harvard University. The “Let’s Send Kids to Harvard” fundraiser was conducted online through a website called “Indiegogo Life”. The outcome of this campaign exceeded the $100,000 goal to over a million dollars. Through this successful fundraising campaign, the lives of the Mott Hall Bridge Academy students have been changed forever. Sadly, many hard working educators such as Ms. Lopez don’t receive as much respect and honor as they deserve. However, through Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York project, heroes such as Ms. Lopez have gained some recognition.
The money raised from the campaign will go towards student trips to Harvard, as well as scholarships to college. Although the fundraiser has already been closed, you can still see the success of this campaign here.
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