‘Humans of New York’ Creator Raises $300,000 to Send Brooklyn Kids on a Trip to Harvard

In just one day, he more than doubled the amount he expected to raise.

In less than a day, the creator behind one of the most popular photography blogs on the Internet, Humans of New York, helped raise more than $300,000 to send students from an underserved Brooklyn school on a trip to visit Harvard University.

Brandon Stanton, who boasts 11 million followers on his Facebook page dedicated to the images of strangers walking the streets of New York City, launched the IndieGoGo campaign for the trip on January 22, after spending time with Mott Hall Bridges Academy students in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

It was during that meeting when he met with the school’s principal, Nadia Lopez, and administrators came up with the idea to send each incoming sixth grade class at the academy to Harvard University annually, to let students know “they can go anywhere, and that they will belong,” according to Lopez.

“Sometimes a visit to Harvard is more than just a visit to Harvard. Mott Hall Bridges Academy is a middle school located in Brownsville, Brooklyn—the neighborhood with the highest crime rate in New York City. It’s not the best place to be a kid,” said Stanton on the fundraising page. “With cuts being made across the board, there is certainly nothing left for trips such as this. And since most families in the neighborhood have extremely limited incomes, the students have no way to fund the trip themselves.”

The whole thing started when Stanton met a student from the school earlier in the week who said Lopez was his biggest inspiration. From there, Stanton went to the school to meet and photograph the principal, to share her story on his blog. After some brief discussion and a brainstorming session with Lopez and the school’s assistant principal, Monique Achu, they began to plan the trips to Harvard.

“Our discussion covered many needs, but we kept returning to one in particular—the limited horizons of disadvantaged youth,” Stanton wrote. “So the three of us struck on an idea (OK, it was Ms. Achu’s idea, but we all agreed). We want to create a fund that will provide each incoming sixth grade class at Mott Hall Bridges Academy a chance to get out of their neighborhood and visit a new place. And that place is Harvard University.”

Stanton decided to use his powerful Facebook and social media presence to raise $100,000, so that the incoming classes could visit the Cambridge school over the next three years and “stand on the campus of one of the world’s top schools.”

After posting a link to his fundraising page on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, however, people from all over the country—and likely the world—donated money toward the cause, helping more than double the original goal. And that was just in the first day.

Lopez told Stanton that she hopes the trips will inspire students to work hard to achieve their goals, and step outside of the confines of their New York City neighborhood. “This is a neighborhood that doesn’t necessarily expect much from our children, so at Mott Hall Bridges Academy we set our expectations very high. We don’t call the children ‘students,’ we call them ‘scholars,'” she said. “When you tell people you’re from Brownsville, their face cringes up. But there are children here that need to know that they are expected to succeed.”

The fundraiser still has two weeks to go before coming to an end.


Steve Annear Steve Annear, Digital Writer at Boston Magazine sannear@bostonmagazine.com