Bril­liance in Brownsville

Prin­ci­pal Na­dia Lopez is rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing ed­u­ca­tion, one scholar at a time.

Metro USA (New York) - - Dating - ALIZAH SALARIO @Alirosa alizah.salario@metro.us

When Na­dia Lopez left the cor­po­rate world to join the New York City Teach­ing Fel­lows, she didn’t an­tic­i­pate start­ing a school in one of the city’s poor­est neigh­bor­hoods. Now a highly re­garded ed­u­ca­tor and the founder and prin­ci­pal of Mott Hall Bridges Acad­emy, a pub­lic mid­dle school in Brownsville, Brook­lyn, Lopez is widely rec­og­nized for her abil­ity to build bridges in ed­u­ca­tion — whether they be be­tween ed­u­ca­tors and the com­mu­ni­ties they serve, or across the many di­vides in our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

She chron­i­cles the chal­lenges and re­wards of found­ing Mott Hall in “Bridge to Bril­liance: How One Prin­ci­pal in a Tough Com­mu­nity Is Inspiring the World” (out Aug. 30).

When we caught up with Lopez, she was ea­ger to talk about the im­por­tance of an ed­u­ca­tion that goes be­yond aca­demics. I guess the best way of say­ing it is that I was go­ing to be on the ground to do the work, and show­ing up within the com­mu­nity — even just walk­ing through the hous­ing de­vel­op­ments, and greet­ing peo­ple and in­tro­duc­ing my­self. The res­i­dents should be re­spected and hon­ored. So I did that ev­ery sin­gle day [dur­ing the sum­mer of 2010], walk­ing ev­ery block of Brownsville. Prior to open­ing up the school, I was do­ing a lot of youth-em­pow­er­ment sum­mits. Ev­ery sum­mer, there’s a tragedy that we have to deal with in the com­mu­nity, and I don’t want my chil­dren to be­come jaded in terms of feel­ing like they don’t have any value in this world. Also, I don’t want them to think that they need to be­come a threat to law en­force­ment be­cause they feel like law en­force­ment is a threat to them. I would say: Stay en­cour­aged. You don’t get im­me­di­ate grat­i­fi­ca­tion, and it won’t nec­es­sar­ily come from the ad­min­is­tra­tors you work with or the chil­dren that you serve, but you have to un­der­stand you’re here to serve a higher pur­pose, and in do­ing so, the fruits of your la­bor come five to 10 years from now. How bril­liant the chil­dren of Brownsville are. And that’s pretty much the premise of the “Bridge to Bril­liance.” I firmly be­lieve that if you reaf­firm your com­mu­nity, and the chil­dren you come in con­tact with, they will rise to the oc­ca­sion.

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