On Monday, the Humans of New York blog and Facebook page featured a Brooklyn middle school student. The first picture painted a sad picture. “When you live here, you don’t have too many fears,” the caption read. “You’ve seen pretty much everything that life can throw at you. When I was nine, I saw a guy get pushed off the roof of that building right there.”
But the second photo of the boy was a bit more hopeful.
Brandon Stanton, the photographer who runs Humans of New York, met Nadia Lopez. Lopez is principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy, a middle school in Brownsville, Brooklyn, which has some of the highest crime and violence rates in New York.
“This is a neighborhood that doesn’t necessarily expect much from our children, so at Mott Hall Bridges Academy we set our expectations very high. We don’t call the children ‘students,’ we call them ‘scholars.’ Our color is purple. Our scholars wear purple and so do our staff. Because purple is the color of royalty. I want my scholars to know that even if they live in a housing project, they are part of a royal lineage going back to great African kings and queens. They belong to a group of individuals who invented astronomy and math. And they belong to a group of individuals who have endured so much history and still overcome. When you tell people you’re from Brownsville, their face cringes up. But there are children here that need to know that they are expected to succeed.”
Stanton met with the Lopez and the school’s administrators to think of a way to provide students with a broader picture of the possibilities that exist outside of Brownsville, to show there is hope for them to accomplish more. They decided upon a school trip to Harvard University.
On January 22nd, Stanton set up an IndieGoGo campaign to raise $30,000 for one class trip, with every additional $30,000 raised allowing another class to go. As of writing this, the current amount raised so far is $522,679. That number climbs with every page refresh.
We’ve raised enough money in 24 hours to make the Harvard trip a permanent part of the MHBA curriculum. With two weeks left in the fundraiser, I sat down with Ms. Lopez today to learn the best way that we could continue to help her secure a bright future for her students.
“We have a major need for a summer program,” she explained. “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.”
Ms. Lopez estimates that an effective summer program will cost about $40,000 a year. So every $40,000 beyond the $350,000 we’ve already raised will provide another “safe and productive summer “ for the students at Mott Hall Bridges Academy.
The amount raised by the campaign will only increase, as will the possibilities envisioned by its students.
Source: Humans of New York