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