What started with a picture and a post on the popular Humans of New York blog has led to more than $1 million in donations and now, a trip to the Oval Office.
The post, featuring 13-year-old middle school student Vidal Chastanet from Brownsville, Brooklyn, has received more than 1 million likes on Facebook and more than 145,000 shares.
Chastnet talks to Humans of New York about the person who has influenced him most, Ms. Lopez, his school's principal. Chastanet attends Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the neighborhood in New York City with the highest crime rate.
"When we get in trouble, she doesn't suspend us. She calls us to her office and explains to us how society was built down around us. And she tells us that each time somebody fails out of school, a new jail cell gets built. And one time she made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter," Chastanet told Humans of New York.
Their story inspired President Obama, so it was only a matter of time before Chastanet, Nadia Lopez and Brandon Stanton, the Humans of New York creator and photographer, received an invitation to the White House.
The president sat down with the three Thursday, giving them the opportunity to share their inspirational story and let them ask him some personal questions.
The White House posted the video to its YouTube channel Saturday, giving a behind-the-scenes look as Obama met Chastanet and his principal.
The president offered words of encouragement and inspiration in his office. Talking about his mother's influence in his life, Obama detailed her struggle as a single mother.
"She had to work and she went to school. She had to raise me and raise my sister," Obama said. "She had to work, she had to raise kids, it was a victory of her spirit."
When asked, "When is the time you felt most broken?" the president discussed the time when he first ran for Congress in 1999.
"I just got whooped. I got beat. And there was a stretch of time at the age of 40 where I had invested a lot of time and effort and I wasn't sure I had taken the right path. And I think we all go through those stretches," he said.
"Usually life is not a straight line. We don't do things alone. Nobody does things alone," he said. "Everybody always needs support. You'll have a lot of people supporting you out there. You just gotta make sure you seize those opportunities."
The White House said the donations raised for the school will be used to send students to visit Harvard, support summer programs and provide scholarships to students.