NEW YORK The popular photo blog "Humans of New York" said it had raised more than $1 million by Thursday to pay for college trips and tuition for middle-school students in one of the city's most crime-ridden neighborhoods.
The fundraising idea was triggered by a viral response to the blog, www.humansofnewyork.com, after it posted the photo of a student at Mott Hall Bridges Academy in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, who called the school principal the most influential person in his life.
The student was identified only as Vidal, age 13, and he was shown in a photograph by blog founder Brandon Stanton with a pursed smile and wooly black hoodie, accompanied by a quote about his principal, Nadia Lopez.
"When we get in trouble, she doesn't suspend us," he said. "She calls us to her office and explains to us how society was built down around us.
"And one time she made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter."
The blog, on which Stanton posts pictures, quotes and short stories about people he meets in New York City, has nearly 12 million Facebook followers. His posting about Vidal on Jan. 20 drew more than 1 million "likes" and he made a trip to the public school to visit Lopez.
Stanton, a bond trader turned photographer, then decided to launch a $100,000 fundraising campaign for the school, which had hopes of sending incoming sixth graders to tour the Harvard University.
The money will be used to finance student travel for the Harvard visits as well as establish the Vidal Scholarship Fund to pay for their college studies with Vidal named as their first recipient.
"Before all of this happened for our school, I felt broken," Lopez told a student assembly on Wednesday. "A lot of bad things have been happening lately, especially between black people and white people. But all of you gave people a reason to feel a little less broken."
Some 35,000 people donated to the online campaign, which began on Jan. 22 and expires in another eight days, has already raised more than $1 million.
"Your donations have given a heavy boost to a group of scholars and educators in their battle to establish a culture of success in a disadvantaged neighborhood," Humans of New York wrote on its Facebook Page.
Georgia-born Stanton created Humans of New York in 2010, after being fired from his New York finance job.
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Bill Trott)