It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. ~ Frederick Douglass
(CNN) “One principal’s inspiration has resulted in more than $1 million in donations for what started as an initiative to raise funding for a class trip to Harvard….#BrownsvilleBrilliance
“Humans of New York” creator Brandon Stanton launched the campaign to benefit Mott Hall Bridges Academy, a middle school in Brownsville, Brooklyn, known as a “safe zone in a crime-plagued neighborhood.” The goal of the trip is to broaden students’ horizons and expand their idea of their potential, Stanton wrote on the campaign page.
It took about 45 minutes for an online campaign to raise an initial $100,000.
The campaign evolved from a picture this week on “Humans of New York,” the massively popular photo series of everyday people Stanton meets on the street. The fundraising campaign’s rapid success speaks in part to the reach of “Humans of New York,” which has a social media following of nearly 12 million on Facebook alone. It’s also a testament to the ability of social media to breathe new life into a feel-good story.
The inspirational post featured a picture of a Mott Hall student named Vidal in a housing project in Brownsville. He describes the most influential person in his life, principal Nadia Lopez.
“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.”
They discussed how the “Humans of New York” community could help further the school’s vision, Stanton said in a Facebook post. They decided to create a fund to provide each incoming sixth-grade class a chance to get out of their neighborhood and visit Harvard University….
Photo raises $1.2m to send US pupils to Harvard http://t.co/fD3KZflPc7 via @YahooNews
“On January 19th, I met a young man on the street named Vidal, and I asked him to tell me about the person who had influenced him the most in his life. He told me about his principal, Ms. Lopez, and he explained how she had taught him that he mattered. Over the next two weeks, I learned the story of Ms. Lopez and her school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy. By hearing the stories of MHBA students and educators, my eyes were opened to the unique challenges facing a school in an under-served community. Ms. Lopez taught me that before a student is ready for academic training, they must be made to understand that they deserve success. And that can be the hardest battle in education. Ms. Lopez always said that there was no place her students did not belong. Recently we received an invitation that proved just that.” ~ Brandon Stanton @HumansOfNY.
This campaign’s scope has expanded as its pot has continued to grow. Initially, it was intended to cover lodging and transportation costs for three Mott Hall classes to make the trip to the Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus. Stanton said that funds raised beyond the initial goal would go toward summer programming for the school.
“Learning stops during the summer for my scholars. We have what is called a ‘summer slide,’ ” Lopez says on the fund-raising campaign page.
“They need a safe place where they can do activities and continue to grow their minds.”
Stanton also posted that because of the campaign’s success, “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.”
The scholarship fund will be named for Vidal, the student who started it all, who will be the fund’s first recipient, Stanton announced.