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Students at the Mott Hall Bridges Academy.

Blogger Brandon Stanton

For the next 10 years, sixth-graders at Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brooklyn, N.Y., will be able to visit Harvard University due to the fundraising efforts of blogger Brandon Stanton.

In 2010, the Big Apple photographer started a campaign to photograph everyday New Yorkers on the street to help tell their stories. Stanton posted the portraits and snippets describing each person’s personality to a blog and a Facebook page called Humans of New York, which has amassed about 12 million fans, according to CBS News.

On Jan. 20, the photographer met Vidal Chastnet, an eighth-grade student at Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville, a neighborhood with one of the worst crime rates in Brooklyn.

Vidal Chastnet

Chastnet told Stanton of the challenges he faces living in a crime-ridden neighborhood. According to Stanton’s blog, Chastnet said, “When you live here, you don’t have too many fears. You’ve pretty much seen everything that life can throw at you. When I was [9], I saw a guy get pushed off of that building right there.”

Principal Nadia Lopez.

Despite his rough environment, however, Stanton said the teenager seemed to have a positive outlook on life. In another photo, when Chastnet was asked who has influenced him most in his life, he said his principal Nadia Lopez.

“When we get in trouble, she doesn’t suspend us,” Chastnet said, according to the blog. “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 ofschool, 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.”

That post received over 1 million likes and inspired Stanton to go to the school and meet Ms. Lopez in person. Stanton found out that Ms. Lopez was working hard trying to raise money for her sixth-graders to visit Harvard. That prompted him to start an online fundraiser on Indiegogo.com. As of last week, over 34,000 people donated money, pouring in over $1 million. In addition to sponsoring the Harvard trips, the money also will be allotted for summer programs and scholarships.

According to the Humans of New York site, Lopez said to her students at an assembly, “People have written me letters from New Zealand, England, and South Africa telling me that they care about you.”


jhunter@afro.com; Twitter: @hunter_jonathan