Ever hear of the photographic storytelling blog, Humans of New York? It’s a collection of photographs and stories of individuals randomly selected by photographer, Brandon Stanton. He started this “project” in 2010, after losing his job in Chicago. But rather than sulk about it, Stanton decided to pool two of his obsessions together, New York City and photography, to take portraits of total strangers on the street and share their stories online. Today, this “project” is now a #1 New York Times bestseller (same title as the blog) and his blog has more than a million devoted followers. Okay. This is a feel good story about someone turning his lemons into lemonade. But how about him using his lemonade to change the life of students at a Brooklyn school? That’s a story you don’t hear every day.
Stanton took a photograph of 13-year-old Vidal and asked him who had influenced him most in his life. Vidal said his principal much to Stanton’s surprise. When asked why, Vidal said because she told him he mattered. His photograph and story received an overwhelming response from blog followers so Stanton decided to visit Vidal’s school, the Mott Hall Bridges Academy, and his principal, Ms. Lopez. He learned that her approach is to teach students that they are expected to succeed — something many of them may never hear at home, in their neighborhood, in public school, or in society at large.
Stanton was moved to brainstorm with Ms. Lopez on creative ways the HONY community could support the vision of Academy. He started a fundraising effort called, “Let’s Send Kids to Harvard: Vidal Scholarship Fund”. In no time, blog followers from around the world contributed over $1 million. Over the next 10 years, these donations will fund trips to Harvard for every entering 6th grader; summer programs for Academy students; and the “Vidal Scholarship Fund” (for which Vidal will be its first recipient).
Stanton’s turned his lemons into lemonade. But what makes his story so exceptional is that he followed his heart and shared his lemonade which will make a difference in the lives of so many others. SWEET!