This is the story of what can happen when the Internet gets together and decides to make the real world a better place.
A couple of weeks ago, one human approached another, younger human on the streets of New York and asked if he could take his picture and learn about his life.
It was a typical day at the office for Brandon Stanton, the creator of Humans of New York (the photo project that features one subject each day and presents them as human beings rather than units that comprise the throngs of people one passes on the street each day).
Stanton has been photographing strangers through this project since 2010, but this time, his subject offered an unusually compelling story. His name was Vidal and he didn't know it yet, but he was about to make a bigger difference than he could have ever imagined.
Vidal is a student at Mott Hall Bridges Academy. That's a middle school in Brownsville, a neighborhood that New York Magazine deemed the "murder capital of New York City." Growing up and graduating in Brownsville can be tough. Many of the students live in housing projects, which in Vidal's experience, are often unsanitary and even dangerous environments.
"You look around and see a lot of negative things," Vidal said. "And you can't help but feel like you're a part of something negative, and that maybe you're something negative."
But there's a woman who encourages Vidal and his peers to believe in something positive. So, when Stanton asked Vidal who has influenced him the most in his life, he pointed to his principal at Mott Hall Bridges Academy.
Inspired, Stanton tracked down Nadia Lopez and she opened up about the world her students live in and her efforts to change it.
"This is a neighborhood that doesn't necessarily expect much from our children," she said. "But there are children here that need to know that they are expected to succeed."
With that in mind, Stanton, Lopez and the school's Director of Programs Monique Achu sat down to brainstorm ways to make those expectations clear and to bring the concept of "success" to life for these students.
"We want 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," Stanton wrote on the HONY Facebook page. "And that place is Harvard University."
"I want every child who enters my school to know that they can go anywhere, and that they will belong," said Ms. Lopez.
Stanton took to Indiegogo to start the fundraiser and implored his HONY community and followers to donate to the cause in hopes of raising $100,000.
In less than a week, more than 35,600 people felt inspired to give — and, through crowd funding alone, they've already raised $1 million. The money will be used to fund potentially life-changing tours of Harvard, and will continue to financially assist Mott Hall Bridges scholars for years to come. They're calling it The Vidal Scholarship Fund.
And, as Stanton wrote in an update on Indiegogo, "The first recipient will be Vidal."