I have a lot of favorite Instagram accounts that I follow. However, over the past week or so, I have been glued to the Humans of New York IG account all thanks to one young man named Vidal. A week ago, he was featured on the HONY account and shared how his principal, Ms. Lopez, had influenced his life.
"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."
Upon reading his post, it was like the entire internet got a case of the feels. “Who is Ms. Lopez?” “I love this story!” “We need more educators like Ms. Lopez!” “What a brilliant young man!” You get the drift. Well, apparently the genius mind behind HONY thought the same thing because he sought out Ms. Lopez and interviewed her. The rest is history…
Brandon (HONY) partnered with Vidal’s school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy, to raise money to send each sixth grade class to Harvard and funds to help support summer programs for students. Within days, over $600,000 was donated via an online fundraiser. As of today, that number is over $1 million – all motivated by Vidal’s story and Ms. Lopez’ passion.
God works in mysterious ways…
A couple days back, I posted the portrait of a young man who described an influential principal in his life by the name of Ms. Lopez. Yesterday I was fortunate to meet Ms. Lopez at her school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy. “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.”
“…There are children here that need to know that they are expected to succeed.”
*insert more feelings*
If you haven’t been following this series on the Humans of New York page, then you have to check it out. Almost every post has made me teary-eyed, especially the teachers’ stories. Public school teachers often get a bad rap, but we also don’t acknowledge what they go through every day. These posts have opened my eyes to both the challenges and the beauty that accompanies the role of educator. Ms. Lopez and her staff have inspired me in ways that I can not express. In fact, sometimes all I can do is cry. With all of the craziness that our children face, it is a blessing for the scholars at Mont Hall Bridges Academy to have these adults on their side… and in their corner.
However, now their support system has grown exponentially and hundreds of thousands of people are rooting for their success. This is how you truly break the internet.
Brandon, thank you for your always incredible photos.
Ms. Lopez, thank you for inspiring your students and the world.
Vidal, thank you for reminding outsiders that kids from our communities can love school, be motivated by their educators, and, most importantly, make a difference.
To make a donation to this school, you can check out the fundraising page here.