If you're looking for something to brighten your day today, look no further. The social media photo phenomenon Humans of New York is raising money for an underserved Brooklyn school — and the whole thing has been an inspiring, runaway success. Because as terrible as the world can be there are so many people out there who want to help make it better. Sometimes, the Internet really is a beautiful place.
This whole thing started just a few days ago when Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind Humans of New York, a photo blog that posts pictures and quotes from real New Yorkers, asked one of his subjects who the most influential person in his life was. The boy replied "My principal, Ms. Lopez." He described Ms. Lopez, explaining,
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.
Intrigued, Stanton arranged to have a meeting with Nadia Lopez, the amazing principal at Mott Hall Bridges Academy, a middle school located in Brownsville, a neighborhood in Brooklyn with the highest crime rate in New York City.
As it turns out, Ms. Lopez is even more incredible than her young student made her out to be. Despite the immense challenge of running a school in such a tough neighborhood, Lopez works incredibly hard to make sure that her students not only stay in school and succeed academically, but also believe in themselves.
With people on social media asking how they could help support Ms. Lopez and the Mott Hall Bridges Academy, Stanton and Lopez did a little brainstorming and came up with an idea: a Mott Hall Bridges sponsored trip to Harvard University to let students tour the school and send the message that they can go anywhere and do anything.
As Humans of New York posted,
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. ... 'I want every child who enters my school to know that they can go anywhere, and that they will belong.'"
And so an Indiegogo campaign was born. Since the school estimated the cost of the trip to be about $30,000 and since they hoped to run the program for at least a few years, the campaign asked for a total of $100,000.
It was funded within hours.
In fact the campaign has been so wildly successful that the school has decided that all money raised after the first $350,000 will go towards the creation of a desperately needed summer program. Ms. Lopez explains, "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." Even the local library isn't a safe place for young people.
"They miss out on the enrichment available to children from more affluent neighborhoods," Ms. Lopez says. "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."
But thanks to the money being raised on Indiegogo, such a program is now within reach. As of press time, the campaign currently has over $570,000 in donations. Given that the school estimates the summer program will cost about $40,000 per year, that means that Mott Hall Bridges not only will be able to afford at least ten years' worth of class trips to Harvard, but also at least five years of summer programs. And the campaign is far from over — it was only posted two days ago, and there are another 13 days before it ends.
And yet the generosity just continues.
But one of the coolest parts of the whole story is the fact that most of the funding for this project has come not from any single major backers or interests, but from regular Internet folk who want to do something good. As The Daily Dot points out, the vast majority of the donations to the campaign have come in small increments — often just five or ten dollars. The average donation size is $27, far lower than the overall average crowd funding donation, which is $88. Grassroots fundraising at it finest.
This is the type of story that couldn't happen without the Internet — a picture of a single child for a photo blog turns into an online fundraising campaign that will almost certainly make a huge impact in the lives of thousands of deserving young people. So if you ever wanted proof that technology has the capability to make great and positive change in the world, here it is.
And if you want to be part of it, you can donate to help support the students at Mott Hall Bridges Academy here.
For more posts from or about Mott Hall Bridges, you can also check out the Humans of New York website.