Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind the popular website and book "Humans of New York," interviewed a student named Vidal earlier this year. When he asked him who the most influential person in his life was, he named his principal, Ms. Lopez. She works at the Mott Hall Bridges Academy in an under-served community in New York. Over the next few weeks, Stanton got to know the students of MHBA and the story of their community a bit better.
Ms. Lopez fiercely believes in her children and their ability to succeed, and Stanton was inspired to get to know the school, the students and the educators. He began to raise funds online to "Send Kids to Harvard," and what happened next is nothing short of amazing.
The campaign quickly passed the initial goal of $100,000 and eventually raised more than $1 million. Stanton's effort also hit one million likes on Facebook. After the fundraising, Ms. Lopez and Vidal were guests on Ellen DeGeneres and even visited the White House.
Hearing Vidal talk about Ms. Lopez is inspiring. When Stanton asked her why she was the most influential person in his life, he said: "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."
Ms. Lopez's humility is remarkable, and her words of surprise and love for her students never wavered, despite being on the verge of quitting. "Up until this moment, I didn't know I mattered. I didn't know that anybody cared what I was doing," she said to NBC. At a school assembly, Lopez reminded her students of how important they are: "I never want you to feel like there's this cap on how far you can go."