Whether it’s in front of a classroom or speaking to a large crowd, Nadia Lopez knows how to inspire. Her TED Talks presentation titled “Why open a school? To close a prison” has more than 1.3 million views and counting. Lopez is the founding principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville, Brooklyn, one of New York City’s poorest neighborhoods. Her mission is to cut the school-to-prison pipeline and help disadvantaged students achieve goals that appear hard to reach.
Lopez became a public figure in 2015 after Humans of New York blogger Brandon Stanton randomly approached 13-year-old Vidal Chastanet while he was walking home and asked him who had influenced him the most. He explained how Lopez, his principal, impacts his life and other students at the school. The video went viral and caught the attention of President Barack Obama. That gave Lopez a platform to start a national conversation about every child being capable of achieving great things. Her numerous accolades include the 2019 LinkedIn Top 10 Voices in Education.