Special to the AmNews
After a chance meeting led to the creation of an Indigogo fundraising campaign, the photographer behind the popular blog Humans of New York managed to help raise over $1 million for a Brooklyn middle school, which would fund yearly trips to Harvard University, summer programs and scholarships for its students.
It started Jan. 19, when photographer Brandon Stanton, who has been running the HONY blog since 2010, took a photo of boy named Vidal, who lives in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. Stanton captioned the photo of Vidal with a quote of him saying that his biggest inspiration was his principal at Mott Hall Bridges Academy, Nadia Lopez. A few days later, Stanton was able to meet with Lopez and the two, along with assistant principal Monique Achu, came up with the idea to start a fund that would allow the new entering sixth-grade class to go on a trip to Harvard every year. The trips would provide an opportunity for many students who have not been out of the neighborhood to see new places.
“I want every child who enters my school to know that they can go anywhere, and that they will belong,” said Lopez in one of the photos Stanton took after he began to profile the school.
Stanton officially launched the fundraiser Jan. 22, and the initial goal was to raise $100,000. The photos of Vidal, Lopez and other students and faculty members garnered major social media attention, and within a few hours, $185,000 had been raised, enough to fund the initiative for six years, Stanton said on his website. By the next day, the amount of money raised skyrocketed to $365,000, enough to make the yearly trips to Harvard a permanent part of the Mott Hall Bridges Academy curriculum.
Since the initial goal of $100,000 was raised in just a few hours, money raised during the fundraiser will also go toward summer programs for the students. According to Lopez, living in the crime-ridden neighborhood of Brownsville means that students are stuck inside their homes during the summer months to avoid the gangs and violence on the street, and summer time also means her students forget everything they’ve learned during the school year.
“It’s just too dangerous to be outside, so my scholars stay inside all summer,” said Lopez in another photo. “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.”
As of Jan. 28, $875,000 was raised—enough money to fund 10 years of Harvard trips and 10 years of summer programs, according to Stanton. By the next day, almost 35,000 people had donated over $1 million total to the school.
“Just amazing. And in less than five days,” Stanton posted on his social media pages. “I’m so proud of how everyone has rallied around this story, in ways that go so far beyond just raising money.”
With over $1 million raised and still a little less than a week left in the fundraiser, the school has decided to set up a scholarship fund called the “Vidal Scholarship Fund,” named after the boy who inspired Stanton to pursue the school further. Each year, administrators and committee members from Mott Hill Bridges Academy will choose graduating students for the scholarship, and the first recipient will be Vidal himself, who said his biggest accomplishment has been “getting publicity” for his school.
“Before this, people watched the news and read the newspapers, and some people even thought that all we do here is fight and act crazy. But now there are so many people out there that care about you and want to know more about you,” Lopez told her students at an assembly. “So I need all of you to work a little harder. Whenever you don’t feel like doing your homework, I need you to remember that you’re helping tell the story of Brownsville to people all over the world.”
The fundraiser will officially end Feb. 10 at 11:59 p.m. PT. To donate, visit https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/let-s-send-kids-to-harvard. To see more of Stanton’s photos, visit www.humansofnewyork.com.