Any facebook user in America has probably seen a blog called Humans of New York pop up on their newsfeed at least once. Humans of New York is run by a photographer named Brandon Stanton. Brandon interviews random strangers on the streets of New York and takes their pictures. He posts a quote by them and a picture every time. Very simple. The blog has over twelve million likes on Facebook and has most likely made every user smile at least once.
On January 19, Brandon interviewed a middle school boy in Brownsville, Brooklyn, which is known for being a rougher part of New York City. Brandon asked the boy who the influenced him the most in his life. The boy, Vidal, answered his principal, Ms. Lopez. He said, “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.”
After this interview Brandon found himself at Mott Hall Bridges Academy talking to Ms. Lopez. The two of them decided to start a fundraiser for a annual trip to Harvard University for every student (or scholars as Ms. Lopez call them) in the school. The goal is for the students to see how far they go. She says that the students need to believe that there is nothing they can’t do and that they can do anything if they work hard enough.
In just twenty-four hours, the fundraiser raised enough money to make the Harvard trip a permanent part of the curriculum for years to come. Reading about the fundraiser for the first time I thought about if where the money was going was the best place it could go. Why would they put the money in school supplies or an after school program? Watching an interview with Ms Lopez, I realize that it is not about the money or material things at all. For her, its about the kids, that they are getting life experiences and believing in themselves.
The fundraiser has raised over a million dollars and is going to the Harvard trip, a new summer program, and a scholarship named after Vidal, who started it all. Brandon, Ms. Lopez, and Vidal have been on countless talk shows, including the Ellen Degeneres Show. The most important place that they were invited to was President Barack Obama’s oval office.
With all the bad of social media, cyberbullying, hackers, and gossip sites, there is always a beacon of light—HONY is that light. A picture of a young boy describing the love for his amazing principal changed an entire school, a community, and made millions of people of smile.
Here is the link to Vidal’s photo: