‘Humans of New York’ blog raises over $350K to send inner-city kids to Harvard

WATCH ABOVE: The creator of the “Humans of New York” blog has managed to raise $350,000 on Indiegogo to send a group of underprivileged students to Harvard. Nicole Bogart reports.

TORONTO – The “Humans of New York” blog has been sharing stories of New York City residents for over four years. But now the blog is helping provide once-in-a-lifetime experiences for inner-city youth.

An Indiegogo campaign started by Humans of New York creator Brandon Stanton has raised over US$350,000 to fund a trip to Harvard University for sixth graders from Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

The initial goal of the campaign was US$100,000 – enough to fund one trip a year for three years.

That goal was met in less than an hour.

It all started when Stanton posted the portrait of a young boy on his blog. When asked who has influenced his life the most the boy responded, “My principal, Ms. Lopez.”

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“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,” the boy told Stanton.

“And one time she made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter.”

Four days later, the Humans of New York Instagram page was updated with a new story – this time from Principal Lopez herself.

“This is a neighborhood that doesn’t necessarily expect much from our children,” she told the blog.

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“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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I spent yesterday afternoon in a brainstorming session with Ms. Lopez and her assistant principal Ms. Achu, trying to think of creative ways that the HONY community could help further the vision of Mott Hall Bridges Academy. Our discussion covered many needs, but we kept returning to one in particular– the limited horizons of disadvantaged youth. 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. So the three of us struck on an idea. (OK, it was Ms. Achu’s idea, but we all agreed.) We want to create a fund that will provide each incoming 6th grade class at Mott Hall Bridges Academy a chance to get out of their neighborhood and visit a new place. And that place is Harvard University. “I want every child who enters my school to know that they can go anywhere, and that they will belong,” said Ms. Lopez. So we’re going to try to make it happen! Let’s help this visionary educator enrich the lives of her students. Please consider donating.  Link in bio.

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Brownsville, N.Y. is located in eastern Brooklyn and has long been known as one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in New York City.

The neighbourhood has the highest concentration of public housing in all of the U.S., according to Time magazine. Nearly 40 per cent of its residents are below the poverty line.

In 2013, there were 72 shootings and 15 murders in the area, which spans just over three square kilometres, according to statistics from The New York Times.

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“There’s a saying in Brownsville that says if you’re 25, you’re either dead, or in jail or you’re done with the gang life,” Brooklyn photographer Reed Young told Time during a 2012 interview regarding his photo series in Brownsville.

According to the Humans of New York Instagram page, after a long discussion about the students at Mott Hall Bridges Academy, Stanton and Lopez decided to create a fund that will provide each incoming 6th Grade class with the opportunity to get out of the city and visit an inspirational new place – Harvard.

Stanton estimates that each trip will be about US$30,000, including transportation and accommodation. According to the Indiegogo campaign, each additional $30,000 raised will provide another class of students with a trip.

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