Humans of New York photographer/blogger Brandon Stanton started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise money to send inner-city kids to Harvard. The initial goal was $100,000, which was reached within mere hours of it being posted to the site. In one day over $400,000 was raised for the cause. As of Wednesday over 30,000 people have contributed and the $1 million dollar mark has been surpassed.
This all stems from a photo Stanton took:
"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."
After this story gained traction, Stanton met up with Ms. Lopez. She’s the principle of Mott Hall Bridges Academy, a public middle school in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood. Brownsville has one of the city’s highest crime rates.
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.”
Stanton met with Ms. Lopez and the school and they decided to set up a Harvard trip. Why Harvard? “I want every child who enters my school to know that they can go anywhere, and that they will belong.”
The HONY photographer wrote, “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.”
They calculated that it would cost $30,000 to fund the program for each class. With the campaign’s success Stanton now plans for all the money raised over $700,000 to go towards scholarships. The program is to be named the Vidal Scholarship Fund, after the boy in the original photo.
I asked Vidal if I could photograph him in the same place that I met him for this next announcement. In only four days, we’ve raised over $700,000 for Vidal’s classmates at Mott Hall Bridges Academy. Nearly 25,000 of you have made a donation. Taken together, these donations have provided funding for ten years worth of Harvard trips, and ten years worth of summer programs. Your donations have given a heavy boost to a group of scholars and educators in their battle to establish a culture of success in a disadvantaged neighborhood. There was an assembly today where the full impact of the fundraiser was explained to all of the students, and it was quite emotional. (But more on that later.) I wanted to announce that all funds raised over $700,000 will be reserved for a final purpose. We are starting a scholarship fund available to the graduates of Mott Hall Bridges Academy. A committee of MHBA educators and administrators will choose the recipients each year. We’re going to use the money from our campaign to get the fund started, but we’re also going to lay tracks so that it can continue to assist scholars for years to come. It will be called The Vidal Scholarship Fund. And the first recipient will be Vidal himself. If you’d like to contribute, please click on the link in the bio.* *Indiegogo may not be loading properly due to the traffic. If this is the case, please check back later tonight.