I can't remember when I started following Humans of New York on social media, but it has been for quite some time. I admire his ability to capture people in their most authentic form and share stories that would otherwise go untold. The power he holds to unleash the human potential and expose them to millions and millions of followers around the globe is inspiring and something I am slightly envious of.
If you follow along, you know that a few weeks ago, he photographed a young boy, Vidal, who said that his principal was the most influential person in his life. In the two weeks since then, he has told the untold story of a charter school in Brooklyn and raised over $1.2 M for what was supposed to be a trip for upcoming sixth grades to visit Harvard and now has grown into a scholarship fund for students of Mott Hall Bridges Academy. Over 40,000 individuals have mobilized these funds for deserving students.
I read the posts daily and have loved following along in what has become an incredible journey to include appearances on The Ellen Show and a trip to the White House. In full honesty, each time I read one of the posts, I tear up. It's a reality that many students from underserved communities are not able to envision themselves in college because it is something so intangible to them. A place like Harvard, one of the best educational institutions in the world, is somewhere they don't envision themselves ever visiting let alone attending at a student.
This past fall, I had the great pleasure of taking one of my students on a trip to visit Harvard, Yale, and Brown (read more here.) While we had discussed the possibility of applying to these schools in great length, they were so far out of reach from her reality. As we traveled to Boston, Providence, and New Haven to visit each school I was bursting with happiness for her as she exclaimed excitement over every piece of information, falling leaf, ivy covered building, passing student, chiming clock tower, and crosswalk with more enthusiasm than a young girl meeting Elsa at Disney World. This place, which she had only read about was suddenly real and she had the opportunity to envision herself as a student on those campuses. While we are still hoping and praying for acceptances, the experience alone opened her mind to a world outside of the one she had always known. There were students from all walks of life who she had the opportunity to meet and interact with and that excitement is what challenged her to be even more authentic and diligent with her application process this past fall.
I remember the first time I visited Vanderbilt, Clemson, and Florida and the effect it had on me as someone who had only dreamed about this world hoping that I too would one day belong. There is so much more that I wish I could do to empower first generation college students and make this idea of college a tangible reality. I however, do not have millions of followers on social media and the ability to fundraise through mass social media campaigns. I am thankful for individuals like HUNY who is using their popularity to bring opportunity to the most underserved communities and awareness to people around the world.