By Arielle Hines
Photography blog Humans of New York has changed the fortunes of one low-income school, but there are countless others still in need of dire help.
The blog features photos of different people of the NYC accompanied by a quote. In late January, Brandon Stanton, the photographer who runs HONY, posted a picture of a middle-school-student named Vidal in Brownsville, Brooklyn, a neighborhood dominated by public housing and poverty.
Stanton asked Vidal who inspires him. His answer was Ms. Lopez, his principal at Mott Hall Bridges Academy. Stanton then got in contact with Lopez and started a fundraiser for the school and raised more than $1.2 million.
Stanton has highlighted several of the school’s educators, who do their best to keep their scholars (they don’t use the term student) out of prison and on their way to college. The trio has since been on “Ellen” and went to the White House to meet President Obama.
Even though no can deny this has been amazing for the school and Brownsville community, we should take a step back and examine why this school is unique and needed help to begin with.
In the second photo HONY posted of Vidal, he said that he admired Ms. Lopez because she doesn’t suspend her students.
While Ms. Lopez doesn’t suspend her students, that’s not usually the case nationwide.
According to data collected in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, African-American students, particularly males, are far more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their peers.
Although, black students made up only 18 percent of the students in the sample, 35 percent of them were suspended once, and 39 percent of them were expelled.
Some people may say that African-American students simply get into more trouble than their counterparts, but research shows it is not that simple.
A study conducted by the Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Policy shows that African-American students are more frequently suspended because of subjective disciplinary actions and are more likely to be disciplined more severely for minor misconduct.
The study goes on to say there is no conclusive evidence that black students commit more violations than white students.
The research found that suspensions are effective for providing temporary relief to frustrated school personnel and making parent more aware of behaviors. However, students who are suspended are more likely to have antisocial behaviors and more likely to involved in the juvenile justice system in the future.
The fundraiser for Mott Hall Bridges Academy is going to pay for the sixth-grade class to take an annual trip to Harvard, start a summer program and begin a scholarship fund.
But why didn’t the academy have the money to have these programs without a fundraiser?
Lopez said two-thirds of the school’s budget goes to teacher’s salaries and the rest goes to core programs. Therefore, they simply didn’t have the funds to have extras.
According to the Department of Education, more than 40 percent of low-income schools are not getting their fair of state and local funding.
The analysis shows it would cost as little as one percent of a school’s district’s budget to make funding of low-income schools comparable to other schools.
Lopez also points out that her scholars don’t have access to educational enriching activities during the summer either.
“We have a major need for a summer program,” Ms. Lopez said in a HONY post. “Learning stops during the summer for my scholars. We have what is called a ‘summer slide.’ My scholars can’t even go outside.”
Despite having caring educators, the scholars at Mott Hall Bridges Academy will face many obstacles in achieving a life outside poverty and prison.
No one can say for certain that providing more resources to these children or other kids in other low-income areas will stop them from getting caught in the
cycle of poverty, but don’t we owe it to them to at least give them a fighting chance?
We should strive for a society where schools don’t need to host fundraisers. If we want a better future, we need to more than just to help one school.
Education is one of the most popular majors at CMU, meaning many students could be dealing with these issues after they graduate.
While we can celebrate the students and educators of Mott Hall Bridges Academy, let’s not forget about the schools in other communities.
Take the time to mentor a child, vote for politicians who support teachers and most of all, not assume the worst future for any scholar.