With a click of the shutter, Brandon Stanton put Brownsville, New York on the map.
The celebrated photographer who created the Humans of New York blog changed the life of a neighborhood after photographing 13-year-old Vidal Chastanet in Brownsville, a small and rough Brooklyn neighborhood.
Chastanet explained to Stanton how the area he grew up in turned him into a man at a young age.
"When you live here, you don't have too many fears," Chastanet said. "You've seen pretty much everything that life can throw at you. When I was 9, I saw a guy get pushed off the roof of that building right there."
Chastanet's story grew on Stanton after he explained his greatest inspiration, a school principal by the name of Nadia Lopez. Lopez is the acting principal and founder of Mott Hall Bridges Academy, the school that serves much of the underprivileged community in Brownsville. The same neighborhood is also being featured in a 5-part series by Chase Bank, which you can view at the top of the page.
"She tells us that each time somebody fails out of school, a new jail cell gets built," Chastanet said. "And one time she made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter."
Moved by the story of Brownsville, Stanton launched a campaign online to help raise money for the school. The plan was to use the money to send students on an annual trip to Harvard University. In hours, it had eclipsed $180,000. Before it was all said and done they raised over $1 million. Then Ellen DeGeneres brought them on television and revealed that Target would be donating electronic equipment to the school.
Then, the White House came calling...
That breakthrough moment led to a meeting between President Obama, Lopez and Chastanet. And just like that a 13-year-old boy from a neighborhood most known for crime, poverty and public housing became a national sensation.
Upon their meeting, Obama had some wise words for Chastanet.
"You don't do things alone," he told the boy. "Nobody does things alone. Everybody always needs support. 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. 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."