Brandon Stanton is the photographer behind the project, documenting the lives of New Yorkers he sees walking down the street. Stanton always asks his subjects questions about their lives and the answers are often touching, funny and surprisingly profound.
And sometimes they can be life-changing.
On the 20th of January of this year, Brandon took the above photo of 13-year-old Vidal Chastanet as he was walking through Brownsville in Brooklyn. The area has highest crime rate in the city and highest community of housing projects in the US.
Vidal attends the Mott Hall Bridges Academy and had these wonderful things to say about his principal, Ms. Lopez.
Vidal: "My principal, Ms. Lopez."
Brandon: "How has she influenced you?"
Vidal: "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."
The post attracted a lot of positive attention online and Brandon decided to find out more about Vidal, Principal Nadia Lopez and the Mott Hall Bridges Academy.
While visiting the school, Brandon discovered that Ms. Lopez was trying to raise funds for a class trip to Harvard University and decided to help.
Brandon set up a crowdfunding page on Indiegogo and began photographing the students and staff of Brownville to raise awareness and funds.
Since setting up the page five days ago, they have raised over $1 million (€880,000) dollars. The original target was $100,000.
Thanks to the amazing and unexpected amount raised, the entire school will be now be visiting Harvard.
But the money will go a lot further than that.
"We are starting a scholarship fund available to the graduates of Mott Hall Bridges Academy. A committee of MHBA educators and administrators will choose the recipients each year. We’re going to use the money from our fundraiser to get it started, but we’re also going to lay tracks so that it can hopefully continue to assist scholars for years to come. It will be called The Vidal Scholarship Fund.
And the first recipient will be Vidal.”
Principal Lopez told Brandon that the money couldn't have come at a better time:
“Before all of this happened, I was about to give up. I was broken. I felt like typing my resignation. I told my mother: ‘Mom, I don’t think I can do it anymore.
“I read what Vidal said, and I began to read the comments. And tears started coming down my face. Because even though I always tell you that you matter, up until that moment, I didn't feel like I mattered.”
Brandon explained to Ellen’s Good News what made this fundraiser so special:
“The randomness of that encounter between two strangers, it's a very odd pairing me and him in a very strange place. The serendipity of that interaction leading to all of this good.
"I think the reason that people are so engaged with this is they've followed the story from the very beginning, so everybody's going on this journey."
Stephen Fry telling Gaybo exactly what he thinks of God is pretty fantastic