I recently wrote about his photography mega-project, Humans of New York, which was then on a global expedition, making the same altruistic waves overseas as it does within the five boroughs in which it originated. And here we are again with more of that feel good news. The humanitarian one man band, Brandon Stanton, is at it again, poised to change the world armed with little more than a camera and conversation. 

This time the collision is a bit less strategized than a planned trip with the company of non-profit programs. Instead two simple coincidences, two people going about their routine unaware of the impending journey that would unfold with the good old help of right-place, right-time fate; the crossing of paths between a man with a camera and a boy with a story.

A bitesized interview with strangers is a normal day for Stanton. But the boy from Brownsville Brooklyn has led to a powerful fulcrum upon which pivots the very best manifestation of humanity.

This single paragraph has empowered a school, a neighborhood, a world, that is far too often burdened with cold shoulders and averted gazes.  A paragraph and a photo that has not only resonated with millions, but has provoked inside its witnesses an outpouring of support and generosity. 

Here is where it begins:

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 9.03.47 PM

“Who’s influenced you the most in your life?”
“My principal, Ms. Lopez.”
“How has she influenced you?”
“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.”
-Humans of New York

This simple paragraph, which, in so few words, portrays the power of hope that a positive role model can influence upon a negative circumstance, has provoked supporters around the world to join Ms. Lopez on the front lines of a war that permeates the lives and experiences of children.

And then this happened:

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 9.10.57 PM

I spent yesterday afternoon in a brainstorming session with Ms. Lopez and her Director of Programs Ms. Achu, trying to think of creative ways that the HONY community could help further the vision of Mott Hall Bridges Academy. Our discussion covered many needs, but we kept returning to one in particular– the limited horizons of disadvantaged youth. Ms. Lopez’s school is situated in a neighborhood with the highest crime rate in New York, and many of her scholars have very limited mobility. Some of them are very much ‘stuck’ in their neighborhood. And many have never left the city. “It can be very difficult for them to dream beyond what they know,” Ms. Lopez explained. 
So the three of us struck on an idea. (OK, it was Ms. Achu’s idea, but we all agreed.) We want to create a fund that will provide each incoming 6th grade class at Mott Hall Bridges Academy a chance to get out of their neighborhood and visit a new place. And that place is Harvard University. “I want every child who enters my school to know that they can go anywhere, and that they will belong,” said Ms. Lopez.
So we’re going to try to make it happen! Let’s help this visionary educator enrich the lives of her students. 
– Humans of New York

And help they did. Brandon set up a crowdfunding effort that sought to raise $100,000. The overwhelming response surpassed the goal TEN FOLD. In a mere  five days the HONY community managed to raise $1 million from over 36,000  people. 

Thus an even greater need was met:

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 9.17.22 PM


I asked Vidal if I could photograph him in the same place that I met him for this next announcement. In only four days, we’ve raised over $700,000 for Vidal’s classmates at Mott Hall Bridges Academy. Nearly 25,000 of you have made a donation. Taken together, these donations have provided funding for ten years worth of Harvard trips, and ten years worth of summer programs. Your donations have given a heavy boost to a group of scholars and educators in their battle to establish a culture of success in a disadvantaged neighborhood. There was an assembly today where the full impact of the fundraiser was explained to all of the students, and it was quite emotional. (But more on that later.)
I wanted to announce that all funds raised over $700,000 will be reserved for a final purpose. 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. We’re going to use the money from our campaign to get the fund started, but we’re also going to lay tracks so that it can continue to assist scholars for years to come. It will be called The Vidal Scholarship Fund. And the first recipient will be Vidal himself. 
-Humans of New York


Mrs. Lopez, a middle school principal inspired a young man, who in turn inspired the world. And now, 5 short days and $1 million dollars later, this unfortunate context has transformed into an inspiring testimony;  a beacon of hope and encouragement for a group of scholars (as Mott Bridges Middle School refers to their attendees) and the rest of the world.

Followers of HONY have showed such compassion and generosity to this story, showing that a small gesture, like asking a child who influences them, can carry with it a grand and far reaching effect. One principal who sought to change a few lives through education is now domino affecting the lives of millions of people around the world. Brownsville, though geographically is limited to a little neighborhood in Brooklyn has infinitely permeated the households and hearts of so many around the world.

Small gestures can be just the match to light the explosion of change the world needs.

If you’d like to donate, click here.

All images and quotes are found on Humans of New York.


Subscribe now to our newsletter