Humans of New York: more then just a blog

Miranda Tanenbaum, Staff Writer

Humans of New York, a blog run by Brandon Stanton, features pictures and interviews with random pedestrians of New York City.   About one month ago, Stanton interviewed a 13-year-old boy named Vidal whose response inspired millions across the Internet.  When asked to name the most influential person in his life, Vidal responded that it was his principal, Ms. Nadia Lopez.

Eager to learn more about Ms. Lopez, Stanton visited Vidal’s school, Mott Hall Bridge Academy (MHBA).  MHBA is located in Brownsville in the Bronx. On Jan. 22, Humans of New York began a fundraiser with the goal of taking the students of MHBA on a trip to Harvard.

“Ms. Lopez’s school is situated in a neighborhood with the highest crime rate in New York,” said Stanton.  “Some of them are very much ‘stuck’ in their neighborhood. And many have never left the city.”

As a result, it is hard on the teachers to work for students who think that their only hope in the future will be the same low-paying jobs that so many others in their community have.

As an educator, Lopez was frustrated with the hard work that she had put into MHBA, because there seemed to be few results.  Once Lopez saw Stanton’s post, she knew this wasn’t the end.

Stanton and Lopez both wanted to help the students of MHBA realize that they could do anything that they set out to do.  So they began brainstorming.  Mott Hall Bridges Academy has a very low budget, which is all spent on teacher salaries and school necessities.

Because of this, there is no extra money for school trips, and most students come from a low-income families who cannot afford to go on trips of their own. So Principal Lopez decided that at the beginning of each school year, she would take the ncoming sixth graders, or scholars, as she calls them, to Harvard University in order to show them that there is a life beyond Brownsville.  Lopez is confident that this trip to Harvard will broaden their horizons and help them see beyond their neighborhood.

“She wants them to know what it feels like to stand on the campus of one of the world’s top schools, and know that they belong,” said Stanton about Lopez.

Stanton made some calculations and estimated that the cost of the trip per grade would be $30,000. This is when social media took charge. Stanton posted Vidal’s inspirational story on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other websites, which received thousands of reposts and shares as people were moved by what Vidal had to say.

In just 19 short days, Humans of New York raised $1,418,984, surpassing the original goal of $100,000.

“I’ve been following this campaign since the start and the stories that the teachers and students have shared are inspiring,” said sophomore Remi Mankes. “I’m so happy that the students and staff members at MHBA will get to go on the trip because it   will definitely     impact the students and I look forward to hearing about their experience at Harvard.”

Not only did the fundraiser raise money for MHBA, but it also gave the school tons of publicity.  What began on the streets of Brownsville made its way to the Ellen DeGeneres Show and all the way up to the Oval Office.

President Obama, inspired by the story, invited Stanton, Vidal, and Lopez to the White House where they all sat down, giving Vidal and Lopez an opportunity to share their story and ask the President some personal questions. President Obama spoke about his single mother and the hardships that his family endured.

If everything goes as planned, this fundraiser will be the reason that many kids from Brownsville will get an education past high school and make it out of their disadvantaged community.

So far, the donations raised for the school will be used to send students to visit Harvard, support summer programs, and provide scholarships to students.