“And she told each one of us that we matter”

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“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.”

I believe some of you are following “The Humans of New York” blog  or their page on Facebook, where this post appeared on January 19th, 2015. If not, then it will be interesting for you to know what followed this short dialogue between a boy Vidal from Brooklyn and the photographer.

January 22nd, 2015. The post with Vidal resonated so much, that the photographer Brandon Stanton decided to meet with the mystery Ms. Lopez. She turned out to be a principal in Mott Hall Bridges Academy, a middle school in the under-served neighborhood of Brownsville, Brooklyn. This neighborhood has the highest crime rate in NY. To give you a picture what this amazing woman is like, check what she says about her school and students: “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. Because purple is the color of royalty. I want my scholars to know that even if they live in a housing project, they are part of a royal lineage going back to great African kings and queens. They belong to a group of individuals who invented astronomy and math. And they belong to a group of individuals who have endured so much history and still overcome. 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 result of that meeting was a decision to create a fund that “will provide each incoming 6th 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.” The initial target of this fund is to raise 100 000$. Leaping ahead, it will be then named after the boy, from whom everything has started: “Let’s send kids to Harvard: Vidal scholarship fund”.

January 28th, 2015 Over 700 000$ are raised. Ms.Lopez presents the idea of this fund to students and at the end announces: “As a result of this fundraiser, the entire school will be going to visit Harvard. We’re all going to Harvard!”

February 3rd, 2015 – Vidal, Ms. Lopez and Brandon are invited to to The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

February 5th, 2015 – what else they could dream about? Nothing, unless it is an audience with…the President Obama in his Oval office. Yes, he invited three of them and Vidal had a unique opportunity to get an advice from the President and ask about his tough times and the person he has most inspired by.

Within 5 days the fund raised over 1 mln dollars and it is still raising. At the moment of writing this post there are 41191 donators, 1 240 194 $, while the initial target was 100 000$… One accident dialogue on the street of Brooklyn led to the movement which inspires millions of people through all over the world.

My post was inspired by the latter discussions in this blog, where we argued about the possibility of changing our Kazakhstani education system and the relations between students and teachers. I believe that such people as Ms.Lopez should be an example for all of us – honest, kind and dedicated to her work. So let’s become our local Ms.Lopez to inspire our children and reform the education system. What do you think?

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3 thoughts on ““And she told each one of us that we matter”

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post. Possibly for those “scholars” it was unusual that people set high expectations to them. Surely, belief and trust in children more common from the side of parents, but uncommon to see it from the school principal. I realized how powerful and influential principal could be. In this case, Ms. Lopez does more than her position requires; she bears with children and raises children’s self-esteem, which plays crucial role in social life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am stoned of her confident and determination. Challenging the systen, provided by “neighborhood that doesn’t necessarily expect much from our children”, she is breaking the rule of “kasta”.
    If a child is considered to be a future criminal he/she will get used to this label. She says that a child can be a future leader and this child will be! Because “Students are excellent at meeting teachers’ expectations” (director of Language school Capital Education, Ben Godwin).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this interesting and inspiring story!

    this idea of making people believe in themselves should be with all educators I think. As they are the people who teach us not only how to learn at school and university. But we also take them as models of behavior. I am sure most of us remember some good and bad teachers (although, the idea of being good and bad should not even exist in our heads when thinking of education) and especially their influence on us, we might not even remember what they taught but we will surely remember how they treated us. That’s why let’s be models ourselves why wait for somebody to give us an example? let’s be inspiring examples ourselves! just like Ms. Lopez.

    Liked by 1 person

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