“My principal, Mrs. Lopez, has influenced me the most in my life. When we get in trouble, she doesn’t suspend us. She calls us to the 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.”
Created by Brandon Stanton, the popular photo blog “Humans of New York” profiles everyday people throughout the city. It allows viewers to really get to know the individuals that we would otherwise overlook or disregard; I really enjoy the series because it reminds me that EVERYONE has a story and more substance than meets the eye. It truly is a lesson in not judging a book by its cover.
I, along with millions of other subscribers, was struck by a post about a boy in Brooklyn named Vidal; he lives in a housing project in the borough and has experienced things at such a tender age that many cannot even fathom. As he says, “When you live here, you don’t have too many fears. You’ve seen pretty much everything life can throw at you. When I was nine, I saw a guy get pushed off the roof of that building right there”.
The fact that he remains passionate about school in the face of numerous barriers that are completely out of his control is inspiring; I am grateful to educators like Mrs. Lopez who believe in their students and ensure that they believe in themselves despite the contrasting, negative messages they receive on a daily basis. I hope that more meaningful campaigns such as this one take place to continue to give children opportunities they would not otherwise receive.
“‘I ask people all the time about the most influential person in their life, and he was the first person who ever told me his principal,’ Stanton wrote in an email. ‘Then when I met Ms. Lopez, I could not have been more impressed. She is a force of nature. When she let me sit in on a staff meeting, I got a front-row seat to the challenges that her school faces, and I wanted to be involved in the solution.’
They discussed how the “Humans of New York” community could help further the school’s vision. They decided to create a fund to provide each incoming sixth-grade class a chance to get out of their neighborhood and visit Harvard University. ‘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,” Lopez told Stanton.
‘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.'”
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