“In Chicago I was trading bonds. When I came to New York I didn’t really have a plan. I just knew I loved taking photos. I had about 600 portraits of people and I was like, you know what, this would make a pretty good blog.
I photograph everything that makes me happy. Turns out it makes other people happy too.”
I follow Brandon’s blog daily, and it floors me to see how many hits his photos get on Facebook. It really is amazing how a photo and a single quote can somehow tell an entire story.
And HONY has created some big buzz with a new story in the making …
It began with young Mr. Vidal:
“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.”
Well HONY couldn’t stop at Vidal if there was an amazing principal out there who needed to be recognized, so he went to find Ms. Lopez.
And this is what she had to say:
“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.”
Which led to all this:
We’re going to send kids to Harvard! Well, not exactly. But we are going to send the students of Mott Hall Bridges Academy to visit Harvard.
‘What’s the big deal?’ you ask.
Thanks for asking. Sometimes a visit to Harvard is more than just a visit to Harvard. Mott Hall Bridges Academy is a middle school located in Brownsville, Brooklyn– the neighborhood with the highest crime rate in New York City. It’s not the best place to be a kid.
So Principal Nadia Lopez (aka SuperWoman) has a plan for her Brownsville middle schoolers. At the beginning of every year, she wants to accompany the incoming 6th grade class on a tour of Harvard. Since many of her scholars have never left New York, she wants them to know what it feels like to stand on the campus of one of the world’s top schools, and know that they belong. She thinks the experience will broaden their horizons and expand their idea of their own potential.
The Indiegogo fundraiser that was originally seeking $100,000 is still on the rise at $900,00+. They’ve now committed to a decade worth of trips to Harvard, as well as a summer school program, and most recently a scholarship fund in guess whose name: Vidal.
They’ve made all sorts of press and the kids are ecstatic to watch the numbers climb.
“I want my scholars to know that there is not a single place they don’t belong.” – Ms. Lopez
I am so very grateful for the Ms. Lopez’ of the world. And the Vidals’. Because there are plenty of educators with no love to give and plenty of students who don’t recognize love when they get it.
PS … I’m just putting it out there, but I’d love to go to Mott Hall Bridges to speak to the kids. Fingers crossed that Ms. Lopez will have me. I’ll keep you posted;)
Kat Hurley is a transformational author, speaker and personal development coach, making over motivation @The Year of Magical Dreaming. For the full 411, visit kathurley.com, yo!