Monthly Archives: January 2015


Influencers   Brandon, Ms Lopez and Vidal

Quote: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men” – Frederick Douglas

Dear Friend,

The story of Vidal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy, a middle school in Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York (MHBA) has been trending for days now. It has inspired me so much that I can’t resist sharing it with those not opportuned to have read his story.

Vidal   Vidal

In life we have someone who has influenced us in one way or the other growing up. For Vidal, it is Ms Nadia Lopez, his school principal. Maybe he would have kept this to himself for life but the unexpected meeting and subsequent interview by Brandon, the creator of “Humans of New York”.

“Who’s influenced you the most in your life?”
“My principal, Ms. Lopez.”
How has she influenced you?”
“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.”

Ms Lopez  Ms Lopez

This brief interview, with the portrait of Vidal, has created a multiple effect in Mott Hall Bridges Academy, a place regarded as a “safe haven in a crime-plagued neighbourhood” (the neighbourhood with the highest crime rate in New York). A few days after posting the portrait of Vidal online, Brandon went ahead to visit Ms Lopez and this is what she said about her ‘scholars’ during the meeting:

“This is a neighbourhood that doesn’t necessarily expect much from our children, so at Mott Hall Bridges Academy we set our expectations very high. We don’t call the children ‘students,’ we call them ‘scholars.’ Our color is purple. Our scholars wear purple and so do our staff. Because purple is the color of royalty. I want my scholars to know that even if they live in a housing project, they are part of a royal lineage going back to great African kings and queens. They belong to a group of individuals who invented astronomy and math. And they belong to a group of individuals who have endured so much history and still overcome. When you tell people you’re from Brownsville, their face cringes up. But there are children here that need to know that they are expected to succeed.”

Brandon had a brainstorming session with Ms Lopez, and Ms Achu (Director of Programs at MHBA). The three came up with an idea to raise a fund that will provide each incoming 6th grade class an opportunity to get out of their neighbourhood and visit a new place. That place is Harvard University! According to Ms Lopez – “I want every child who enters my school to know that they can go anywhere, and that they will belong.” This aligns with Adrian’s vision when he was interviewed by Brandon. According to Adrian (the student government president at Mott Hall Bridges Academy)
“What’s your biggest goal in life?”
“I want to make it out of the hood. I don’t have to go that far. But if I can just live an inch outside, then I’ll feel safe and know that I’m straight.”

Brandon launched a fundraising campaign, now called “The Vidal Scholarship Fund” on Facebook a few days ago, and as at the time of posting this, over $700,000 (USD Seven Hundred Thousand) has been raised. Wow! Just within 4 days!! The power of the social media you would say. These donations have provided funding for 10 years worth of Harvard trips, and ten years worth of summer programs. These donations have given a heavy boost to a group of scholars and educators in their battle to establish a culture of success in a disadvantaged neighbourhood. And one of the coolest things about it all is that it originated with a young man on the street, who chose to tell a stranger about the love and appreciation he had for his school principal, Ms Lopez. By the way, Vidal will be the first beneficiary. If you’d like to contribute, you can do so here:

This story can be linked to what is happening in my country Nigeria now, and the tensed political atmosphere, the youth being disenfranchised and some of them leaning towards crime. Rather than taking to crime and other negative tendencies, the youth should seize this opportunity to create a positive change in their lives. We should display peace, love and unity during this election period as opposed to violence, hatred and division along religion/ethnic lines. Let us go to the polls and elect whoever we want in power. Our PVC is the power we have, so let us use it wisely!

coat of arms

So, do you have a story on who has influenced you most to share with us? Please do send it in.
We shall be giving out some freebies in the course of the year, so please stay tuned and do drop your comment.

Beyond Rubik's Cube
Have fun cubing!!

(Credits: Humans of New York, Google)



Quote of the Day: “Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.” – Janice Maeditere

rubik's snowman

Dear Friend,

Wow! It was Christmas time and there was so much buzzing around. For us at Kupendeza, it was indeed a ‘December to Remember’. The month took off with the 1-day workshop we had with 17 beauty contestants of Queen Nigeria on the 3rd. The topic was Team Building, Confidence & Problem-Solving Skills Using Traditional & Contemporary Tools as. There we used the ‘Ayo’ Game and the Rubik’s Cube as traditional and contemporary tools used in critical thinking and problem solving. We attempted doing justice to the topic despite the short time allotted (by the way, we need to do this more often).

Though it was a first experience for us all in the team, but after the initial nervousness, we sailed smoothly on with the contestants clamouring for more, but we had to stick to the allotted time


Next we birthed at Kemson Schools International, Ikoyi (I’ll henceforth refer to it as Kemson). Before I talk about what transpired there, let me give you a brief gist about Kemson. Kemson is tucked away in the heart of Ikoyi, Reeve Road, off Glover Road to be precise. It comprises of a Creche, a Nursery and a Primary School. When you look at it from outside, you will not know how big the school is neither will you imagine the number of smart and highly cerebral pupils the school quietly churns out yearly. We suggested the idea of the school having a Rubik’s Cubing Club to the proprietress, and she agreed after several months of presentation after presentation.

After she agreed to having us set up the Cubing Club, I panicked. My fear was borne out of our experience in some other schools. But the students surprised us with their level of intelligence. The first 3 weeks (which we basically spend introducing our participants to the Rubik’s Cube getting them to be familiar with the cube) was like what takes place in every other school.

However, from the 4th week, we started noticing pupils who were solving the 1st layer of the Rubik’s cube! Not only were they solving, they were also assisting in putting those who did not fully understand the basic concept of the Rubik’s cube. They wowed us with their team-spirit, patience and problem solving skills. Usually, we see students focusing on themselves, but this is not the case at Kemson! This inspired us to conduct a mini ‘Smartkids’ Rubik’s Cubing Competition’ (the first school this term). Akindele (a seven-year old, grade 2 student) won in 1.52s. Great minds start young you would say. Congratulations Akindele!!! We look forward to you breaking bounds, and becoming an Achiever and a Leader, qualities you are already exhibiting


Next our train (in partnership with Junior Achievement Nigeria JAN) moved to 3 different schools in Lagos State where we had a Workshop tagged “One-Day Experience With The Rubik’s Cube. We moved from Corona School, Gbagada, to Community Primary School, Abijo, and finally Amville School, Ilupeju.

It was indeed an exciting, fun-filled time for our team as well as the students. The eagerness in the eyes of all the pupils was something that I just cannot erase from my memory. They were all very receptive and requested for more. We look forward to going back to these schools next term and subsequent terms, and also having more schools join the train of smart kids having fun and sharpening their intellect, learning critical thinking and problem solving while solving the Rubik’s cube.

Corona School, Gbagada
Corona School, Gbagada
Community Primary School, Abijo
Community Primary School, Abijo
Amville School, Ilupeju
Amville School, Ilupeju

We finally rounded up the year training interested mums, dads and of course kids the art of solving the Rubik’s cube at the Freedom Park, Lagos.

December 2014 was indeed a “December To Remember” for us!!!

How about you? How was it? Do share your experience with us.
Till then, all of us at Kupendeza wish you a wonderful and prosperous New Year.
Have fun cubing!!