With over 2 million followers on Instagram and 200,000 on Twitter, it’s clear that Humans of New York (HONY) has garnered a huge following with its inspirational stories about the struggles and joys of everyday people.
While HONY founder, Brandon Stanton, typically allows the social media likes and comments to drive the influence of a story, his encounter with Brooklyn eighth-grader Vidal Chastanet led him take the platform of his blog one step further. Stanton profiled the student for his popular blog and asked the young boy to name the person who influenced him the most. It was his response to the question that prompted Stanton to follow-up with Chastanet and take action on making a difference.
“My principal Ms. Lopez,” Chastanet told Stanton. “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.”
It was this same response that led Stanton to visit the young boy’s school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy in an eastern neighborhood of Brooklyn called Brownsville and meet his principal Ms. Lopez.
“I was so impressed that I wanted to help,” Stanton told the Daily News.
Stanton and Lopez came up with the fundraising idea to pay for Chastanet and his peers to go on annual college visits. Lopez estimated that it would cost $40,000 to send a class of 70 sixth grade students on a field trip to visit Harvard each year. It was then when Stanton created the Indiegogo site to fund the project, with the goal to raise $100,000. Within 24 hours, the campaign page had raised more than $200,000 and as of today, more than $1 million have been raised, allowing the entire school to go on a trip to Harvard.
“They need to see for themselves that they should never think they’re not good enough for a school like Harvard,” Lopez told the Daily News.
All funds raised over $700,000 will now be used to establish a scholarship fund for the graduates of Mott Hall Bridges Academy. The fund is named The Vidal Fund, in honor of the young boy whose story inspired the whole project.
Click here to check out the fund’s Indiegogo page, which closes on Feb. 5.