"In Brownsville, they expect you to fail…they expect you to not be anything in life."
Vidal Chastanet was walking home from a store on MLK Day when he was approached by Brandon of the Humans of New York
Chastanet is an eighth-grader at the Mott Hall Bridges Academy, a public middle school in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Brownsville is labeled the poorest neighborhood in New York City
, so Chastanet is no stranger to the low expectations that come with the area.
But when Brandon asked who inspired him the most, he had an immediate answer.
"My principal, Miss Lopez."
Nadia Lopez founded Mott Hall in 2010 with the intent to provide social, emotional, and educational stability to students in the area. Yet by 2014, Lopez wasn’t sure her efforts were making any difference in the community as a whole.
But they were. After Chastanet’s comments were posted on the Humans of New York page
, Lopez and her innovative methods at Mott Hall went viral with an overwhelming flood of positive support.
Lopez was extremely touched. "It really struck a chord with me because he thought of me enough," she says. "He could have said anyone in the world, but he chose to say that I was the one that had the most impact."
This is not a principal who hides in her office. Every day, she’s out there in the halls and classrooms with the students, and with her hands-on, person-centered approach, she helps the kids feel like they’re already successful. Put simply, Lopez calls it "changing the narrative of what happens."
Chastanet definitely agrees. "She would tell us how, if we want to be anything in life, we have to work towards who we want to be, not what the society wants us to be."
Find out what other surprising goodies came to Mott Hall, including an appearance on a popular talk show, and the ambitious plans Lopez has for her students in Why Principles Matter