Featured in the wildly popular "Humans of New York" photo series
in January, a picture of Chastanet along with his sentiments went viral, and a subsequent fundraiser pulled in more than $1 million for his school.
That's how Chastanet, 13, ended up at the White House on Thursday
The young man; his inspirational principal, Nadia Lopez; and "Humans of New York
" creator Brandon Stanton all got the chance to meet Obama. (That's Chastanet in Obama's seat in the Oval Office.)
"You don't do things alone," Obama told Chastanet, according to Stanton's blog. "Nobody does things alone. Everybody always needs support.
"For a young man like you, you should never be too afraid or too shy to look for people who can encourage you or mentor you," Obama said. "There are a lot of people out there who want to provide advice and support to people who are trying to do the right thing. So you'll have a lot of people helping you. Just always remember to be open to help. Never think that you know everything. And always be ready to listen."
It's been a wild ride for Chastanet, Lopez and their school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy
, a middle school in Brownsville, Brooklyn. It's known as a "safe zone in a crime-plagued neighborhood
After Vidal's post took off, Stanton launched a campaign in late January to benefit the school through a summer trip to Harvard. The goal of the trip was to broaden students' horizons and expand their idea of their potential, Stanton wrote on the campaign page
The fundraising campaign's rapid success speaks in part to the reach of "Humans of New York," which has a social media following of nearly 12 million on Facebook
alone. It's also a testament to the ability of social media to breathe new life into a feel-good story.
The first inspirational post featured a picture of Chastanet in a housing project in Brownsville. He describes Lopez as the most influential person in his life.
"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."
In a posting on the "Humans of New York" Facebook page, Lopez talked about the discouragement she felt before the campaign.
"Before all of this happened for our school, I felt broken," she said. "And I think the world felt a little broken too, because a lot of bad things have been happening lately, especially between black people and white people. But all of you gave people a reason to feel a little less broken."
The picture of Vidal has been widely shared and drew more than 1 million likes on the "Humans of New York" Facebook page, compelling Stanton to dig deeper.
"I ask people all the time about the most influential person in their life, and he was the first person who ever told me his principal," Stanton wrote in an email. "Then when I met Ms. Lopez, I could not have been more impressed. She is a force of nature. When she let me sit in on a staff meeting, I got a front-row seat to the challenges that her school faces, and I wanted to be involved in the solution."
Lopez and Stanton d