"Humans of New York" photographer Brandon Stanton and 13-year-old student Vidal Chastanet interviewed President Obama in the Oval Office. Stanton's photo of Chastanet and the subsequent crowd-funding campaign raised more than $1.25 million to send the sixth-grade class on a trip to Harvard. (The White House)

A few weeks ago, the popular blog 'Humans of New York' featured a photo of a Vidal Chastanet, teenager who said his life had been most influenced by the principal at his school.

The blog spent two weeks profiling the school and the principal, Nadia Lopez. The blog's founder, Brandon Stanton, along with Lopez and another teacher at Mott Hall Bridges Academy decided to start a fundraiser to bring the school's students on a visit to Harvard University. The campaign raised more than $1 million -- and caught the attention of the White House, which invited Vidal and Lopez to meet President Obama.

On January 19th, I met a young man on the street named Vidal, and I asked him to tell me about the person who had influenced him the most in his life. He told me about his principal, Ms. Lopez, and he explained how she had taught him that he mattered. Over the next two weeks, I learned the story of Ms. Lopez and her school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy. By hearing the stories of MHBA students and educators, my eyes were opened to the unique challenges facing a school in an under-served community. Ms. Lopez taught me that before a student is ready for academic training, they must be made to understand that they deserve success. And that can be the hardest battle in education. Ms. Lopez always said that there was no place her students did not belong. Recently we received an invitation that proved just that.

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