Do you follow the Humans of New York blog on Facebook? I started following a few months ago, and absolutely love the photographs and interview snippets photographer Brandon posts every day. Lately, I’ve been bursting into emotional tears with each of his latest posts.
About a week ago, one photograph of a little boy he posted inspired more than 340,000 to donate to a fundraiser campaign to improve the lives of students attending a school in the most crime-ridden area of Brooklyn. So far, $1,034,802 has been raised by inspired fans of the blog, touched by the story this photojournalist has captured.
This inspired Brandon to meet the principal, who shared with him her vision for the students, who she refers to as scholars, which sparked a fundraising campaign that met it’s $100,000 goal quickly – all from small donations from the people that follow the story who were touched by the words of Ms. Lopez. The goal is to take the 6th grade scholars on a field trip to Harvard University, to take them out of the city most have never left, and show them that they can belong on one the nation’s top campuses.
Overwhelmed by the generosity which far exceeded their initial goal, they regrouped to create a new goal, which is to start a summer school program for the scholars to attend. She explains the heartbreaking reasons why a summer program would make an impact and said, “Learning stops during the summer for my scholars. We have what is called a ‘summer slide.’ My scholars can’t even go outside. It’s too dangerous. As an exercise, my teachers broke into small groups and took a walk through the community. We wanted to understand how our students live. We went inside the housing projects. The parks and playgrounds were empty because it’s too dangerous. Even the library isn’t a safe zone. Just last Saturday, one of my scholars had two guns pulled on him while he was walking to the community center. In broad daylight. It’s just too dangerous to be outside, so my scholars stay inside all summer. They aren’t learning to ride horses or drive boats, and they certainly aren’t traveling. They miss out on the enrichment available to children from more affluent neighborhoods. They need a safe place where they can do activities and continue to grow their minds. I tried to put together a program last summer, but I couldn’t afford it. I couldn’t really put together any activities, and I could only use teachers-in-training. I need the funds to put together a program with my own teachers so my students have a safe place where they can continue to grow outside of school.”
With the surprising and continuing growth of the fundraising campaign, the team has come up with new ways to help the students. The final funds raised will be dedicated to a scholarship fund, and a panel will select the recipients each year. Vidal will be the first recipient. (This made me cry.)
This is such a story of hope and kindness, but it all brings to light the issues that children and families face in this country. My prayer is always the same when I read stories like this: that all children in the world can be as loved and as safe as my child, because I know how incredibly lucky and blessed we are. One chance meeting and the thoughtful words of a student have changed the lives of so many at his school. Their future has changed its course, due to the wisdom, persistence, and positive energy of a principal who wants her scholars to achieve despite the disadvantages they face. And collectively, 340,000 people are going to change the direction of the lives of these students by giving them opportunity and exposing them to a new path.
The campaign is still going for another week, and you can make a donation here (and clearly, small donations make a big difference!): Make a donation to the Mott Hall Bridges Academy >
And read the story, profiles, and interviews on Humans of New York >