Humans of New York is known for its wide range of stories told by one man and his camera, but this particular tearjerker isn’t just about one person. Enter 13-year-old Vidal Chastanet, a young man who met the President of the United States.
On Jan. 19, Vidal was asked who has made a positive influence on him. His answer: his school principal, Ms. Lopez, of Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brooklyn. “When we get in trouble, she doesn’t suspend us,” he explained. “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.”
HONY wrote on Facebook:
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.
HONY teamed with the school to raise money so that Ms. Lopez could take her sixth-graders from the high-crime neighborhood in Brooklyn to visit Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. They raked in $1 million, way above their target goal of $100,000 on Indiegogo.
The story of Vidal and his principal became so viral, they ended up on Ellen, Good Morning America and was recently invited to the White House to meet President Barack Obama. It may sound cheesy, but this just goes to show that dreams do come true.