The amazing thing – no one intended for this to happen. The popular blog and Facebook site Humans Of New York has over 11 million followers who tune in for the human stories. The brainchild of blogger/photographer Brandon Stanton, the page attracts people who enjoy the full fabric of human lives via a photograph and a carefully selected quote.
Though the page originated with the sometimes heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking stories of ordinary New Yorkers, Stanton recently took it global telling the stories of people experiencing extreme poverty, wars, or just living around the world.
But few have touched the HONY community like one student at Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brooklyn, New York. When Stanton photographed Vidal Chastenet (pictured) as part of a series about the school, he talked about the greatest influence on his life being his principal, Nadia Lopez, who he said instead of punishing students, encouraged them to do better. Though all it was was a photo and a quote, which you can see here, it struck a chord with the HONY community and they responded. Generously.
A popular blogger raised more than $637,000 to send middle school kids from a tough Brooklyn neighborhood on field trips to Harvard — and he did it in just three days.
The inspiring story began when Humans of New York blogger Brandon Stanton met Mott Hall Bridges Academy eighth-grader Vidal Chastanet on a photography excursion in Brownsville.
Stanton, whose photo blog has more than 8 million followers, took Vidal’s portrait and asked the 13-year-old to name the person who most influenced his life.
“My principal, Ms. Lopez,” Vidal replied on the blog. “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.”
The post generated millions of views and prompted Stanton to visit Principal Nadia Lopez and her staff in person.
“I was so impressed that I wanted to help,” Stanton, 30, of Manhattan, told the Daily News.
Stanton and Lopez, who founded Bridges Academy in 2010, came up with the idea of a fund-raiser to pay for the annual college visits. Lopez says it would cost about $40,000 to send the sixth-grade class of about 70 students on visits to Harvard each year.
Well, permission slips granted. Readers of the blog raised over $600,000 for the charter school so that they can not only take trips to Harvard, a number that has since ballooned to $800K with 10 days to go. Lopez says the money will be used not just for the Harvard field trips, but for a summer program to combat the learning loss teachers and students contend with over the summer months.
How did the young man feel who got the ball rolling. He continues to support his principal.
“She tells us that we matter,” Vidal told The Daily News. “And if she thinks that we matter, then we should feel the same.”
(Photo: Brandon Stanton, Humans of New York)