Boy inspires $1 million fundraiser: Viral story takes him to White House


In a neighborhood that doesn’t necessarily offer many extras when it comes to education there is one middle school student who wouldn’t let that dictate his fate. This is partly because he has a school principal who lets him know that he doesn’t have to. Sharing his story of how he was inspired by this educator has taken this student all the way to the White House.

Vidal Chastanet inspired a fundraiser that’s taken in more than a million dollars for the school he attends, Mott Hall Bridges Academy. The funds will be used for the sixth grade class to take a trip each year to Harvard in hopes of inspiring them for their future ventures, according to Fox 44.com on Feb 7.

Chastanet’s rough neighborhood in Brooklyn offered something that gave him hope, his school’s principal, Nadia Lopez. This young man’s new found fame started with the “Humans of New York” photo series back in January, when a photo of Chastanet was featured along with his sentiments about his inspirational principal.

This 13-year-old kid’s words of wisdom went viral and he was invited by President Obama to the White House, which was a trip that happen this week. Along with Chastanet for this meeting with the President was his school principal and the creator of “Humans of New York,” Brandon Stanton, reports CNN News.

Chastanet’s own words that were written under his picture in the photo series from “Humans of New York” is what started this student on this journey:

“Who’s influenced you the most in your life?”
“My principal, Ms. Lopez.”
“How has she influenced you?”
“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.”

Lopez said, “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.’ Our color is purple. Our scholars wear purple, and so do our staff,” Lopez told Stanton, who featured her picture on “Humans of New York.”

Mott Hall Bridges Academy, which is in Brownsville, Brooklyn, is known as a “safe zone in a crime-plagued neighborhood.” It was Stanton who launched the campaign to benefit the school with funds to get these kids to Harvard each year on a school trip. “Humans of New York” has 12 million followers on Facebook, not to mention the other social media sites. This was great exposure and the campaign took off like a rocket.

President Obama shared his words of wisdom with the middle school student saying; “You don’t do things alone,” Obama told Chastanet, “Nobody does things alone. Everybody always needs support.”

The President continued with, “For a young man like you, you should never be too afraid or too shy to look for people who can encourage you or mentor you,” Obama said. “There are a lot of people out there who want to provide advice and support to people who are trying to do the right thing. So you’ll have a lot of people helping you. Just always remember to be open to help. Never think that you know everything. And always be ready to listen.”

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