Opening a School to Close a Prison

March 31, 2017.
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Nadia Lopez:
Opening a School to Close a Prison

Nadia Lopez is a school principal in Brownsville, New York City, where in 2010 she founded a middle school—for children in 6th to 8th grade—the Mott Hall Bridge Academy. Brownsville is one of the most violent and poorest neighbourhoods in all of New York, according to Lopez, where many of the residents live below the poverty line.

Against all the odds, and after much struggle and effort, she and her team of teachers have managed to create a successful school in Brownsville with a 98% graduation rate. Not only has the school provided more than 200 children, so far, with basic knowledge and skills, but also made them aware of what opportunities are out there if they have an education—and given them hope and a vision to aspire to for the future.

This is an outstanding TED talk which received a standing ovation—not surprising given its gripping content and powerful delivery. It is a great example of the power of posture in getting the attention of the audience and putting your message across—among other delivery techniques that she is using.

TED New York November 2015

With the help of the Humans of New York blog, last year the school raised money to take all 200 students—or ‘scholars’ as Lopez likes to call them—to Harvard to show them what possibilities there are if they are ambitious, diligent and study well.

Nadia Lopez was a 2016 Global Teacher Prize finalist and won the Change Agent Award in 2015 for her achievements in Brownsville.

Lopez has also published a book which tells the story of the Mott Hall Bridge Academy—The Bridge to Brilliance. She is a great example of inspiring leadership in the face of the most difficult of circumstances.

Trond Varlid

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This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

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