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On January 19th, I met a young man on the street named Vidal, and I asked him to tell me about the person who had influenced him the most in his life. He told me about his principal, Ms. Lopez, and he explained how she had taught him that he mattered. Over the next two weeks, I learned the story of Ms. Lopez and her school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy. By hearing the stories of MHBA students and educators, my eyes were opened to the unique challenges facing a school in an under-served community. Ms. Lopez taught me that before a student is ready for academic training, they must be made to understand that they deserve success. And that can be the hardest battle in education. Ms. Lopez always said that there was no place her students did not belong. Recently we received an invitation that proved just that.
Just two weeks ago, we reported on how Humans of New York profiled 13-year-old Vidal Chastanet who praised his principal Ms. Nadia Lopez because “She told each one of us that we matter.” Social media picked up on the story and after a boatload of likes, comments and shares that led to a fundraiser, over a million dollars has been raised for Vidal’s school of Mott Hall Bridges Academy so him and his classmates could visit Harvard University, and have summer programs and future scholarships provided. We even got to see Vidal and Ms. Lopez on The Ellen Degeneres Show. Yesterday, Chastanet and Ms. Lopez received another gift: they both got to meet President Obama at The White House, who also heard of the inspiring story! HNY creator Brandon Stanton was there as well for the special moment. #PassTheKleenex #NoSeriouslyPassTheKleenex
Stanton was still in behind-the-camera mode when he was at The White House with Chastanet and Lopez and he captured the President speaking with them. There’s also a great picture of Chastanet sitting in the Oval Office’s chair with Obama and Ms. Lopez by his side. It’s such an uplifting moment because where he and Ms. Lopez are from, Brownsville in Brooklyn, is a rough neighborhood where dreams and hopes are often stepped upon and withered away. And at Mott Hall Bridges Academy, where the student body is 85 percent of color, as implied by The New York Times, is a safe haven for these kids to go to when they are not at home. Ms. Lopez took it upon herself to be a leader towards her students and to strengthen their work ethic. Most importantly, she also encouraged them to believe they were just as capable and smart as anyone else to obtain great success.
Ms. Lopez caring so much about her students left such an impression on Chastanet. When Stanton asked, as he normally does for his blog, who the most influential person in his life was, without hesitation, he named his principal on that fateful day.
For that great picture of Chastanet sitting in the Oval Office chair, Stanton wrote as a part of his caption a direct quote from Ms. Lopez: “She always said that there was no place her students did not belong. Recently we received an invitation that proved just that.” We hope you still have your kleenex!
This is just heartwarming. We’re so happy for Chastanet, Ms. Lopez, and the community of Mott Bridges. We’re also thankful for Stanton for sharing these story with us. As Ms. Lopez instilled in her young students that there’s nowhere hard work and confidence couldn’t take them, they in return have inspired us!
What do you think beauties? Type past your tears in the comments below!