HONY: Mercy College Edition
December 13, 2013
Humans of New York, also known as HONY, is a popular blog created by Brandon Stanton. What first started out as a census project turned into something much more? When he realized his project was taking on a different approach, he turned his project into a vibrant blog filled with different stories and pictures of people in one of the country’s greatest cities.
“I thought it would be a really cool to create an exhaustive catalogue of the city’s inhabitants, so I set out to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot their photos on a map. I worked for several months with this goal in mind. But somewhere along the way, HONY began to take on a much different character,” Stanton stated about his blog.
Through pictures and interesting stories, Stanton captures the beauty of New York City and the interesting people that live there. From small tips of advice to stories about their lives, HONY has created a movement.
Later on in this unpredictable journey, the plot changed and Brandon switched up his plan a bit.
“HONY began to take on a much different character. I started collecting quotes and short stories from the people I met, and began including these snippets alongside the photographs. Taken together, these portraits and captions became the subject of a vibrant blog, which over the past two years has gained a large daily following. With nearly one million collective followers on Facebook and Tumblr, HONY now provides a worldwide audience with glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City.”
With over one million people fewing his blog daily, it was clear that Stanton was the right person to tell these remarkable stories.
HONY has been publicized through different newspapers such as The Huffington Post and The Wall Street Journal. It has also sparked the ideas of other photographers around the world to create a blog filled with photos and quotes of people from their own hometown.
Mercy College students have their own stories to tell.
Inspired by HONY, we have decided to get into the lives of the everyday college student. Their stories are just as an inspiring and uplifting as the people Stanton interviews every day in New York City.
We present you with Students of Mercy College.
How many tattoos do you have?
Which one would you say is your most significant tattoo?
“All of my tattoos are significant, but the most significant is the one on my right calf. It’s a cancer ribbon playing soccer with a halo over it. My cousin died 3 years ago from bone cancer. She was really young when she died and we were really close. Her mom died of cancer, so she lived with her aunt for her whole life. When she turned 17, her aunt told her ‘I can’t love you the way I love my children because you’re not my kid’. When I found out about that, it was shocking to hear. It shouldn’t matter if she wasn’t her kid, she’s family regardless. I never really got along with anyone in my family but her. Even though she was older than me, she involved me in everything. When she died, it was a pretty emotional time and it took me a while to get over. I only started to come to terms with it last year. I never thought in a million years that I would get a tattoo, but it only seemed right to memorialize her on my body. Now, it’s not just a memory. She’s permanently on me forever. She will always be my right hand girl.”
Student: Ambre Ferrington- Major: Veterinary Technology
If you could give advice to a large group of people, what would it be?
“Try your best to understand one another and be open minded. Ignorance leads to fear, which I see as a really big problem in society today. People fear what they don’t know, so to eradicate fear or to take the first step to eradicating fear, we should really make it a point to understand one another.”
Student: Jenyssa Cooper- Major: Criminal Justice
What is your purpose in life?
“My purpose is to help people. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Whether it be social work or law, it’s something that I feel is in my blood. I come from a family of soldiers and people who have worked in law enforcement. I just love giving back. I hate seeing people who need help and aren’t getting the help they deserve.”
Student: Naomi Osuji – Major: Radio and Television Production
What was the saddest time in your life?
“I was seven and it was Thanksgiving. My parents got into this huge fight. My dad has problems and has been known to take a lot of drugs. He got very violent with my mother, and I remember him physically hurting her. He was so violent that he even put a knife to her neck. The fighting got so bad that he picked up a jar of Vaseline and threw it at our television, which shattered and cut up my leg.”
Has that taught you anything about life?
“Try to defend yourself and be careful with who you fall in love with.”
Student: Thomas Brownstone- Major: Physical Therapy
Who inspires you?
“My brother inspires me. Growing up, I would always want to follow his examples. He was always such a good example for me and I’ve always wanted to be like him. He’s kind of my hero. Watching him accomplish so much in his life made me realize that I want to be that successful. He studied physical therapy in college, so I plan on following in his footsteps.”
“What do your tattoos mean?”
“The tattoo on my left arm had come to me in 1998 when my best friend and I
were out one night and we wanted to get something to symbolize our friendship. We decided to get the same tattoo, and ironically about one year ago, he passed away. The tattoo basically symbolizes someone who has seen and been through a lot of stuff in their life and the hard times that we have been through.”
“How many tattoos do you have?”
“Seventeen all over my body.”
“What was the most frightening thing that has ever happened in your life?”
“2 to 3 months ago, I found an abnormal mass in my chest. Due to strong family history of breast cancer I immediately contacted my doctor. I went home from school the same day and was in my doctor’s office for a breast exam.”
“She informed me that I was considered a high risk cancer patient due to genetic history and it wasn’t just a cyst. I was sent for an emergency sonogram later that afternoon that confirmed that I had three other masses throughout my chest.”
“What about this whole experience made you most upset?”
“The fact that I was only 20 and had to leave the week of my finals to go get tested for cancer. When I did find out that I had to get it removed, the most frustrating part was finding a surgeon who accepted insurance.”
“How did this impact you today?”
“I am more aware now. I am aware now to not assume that this can’t happen to me because I am young and not susceptible to these things. It encouraged me to be more conscious of my health and to go for regular screenings every couple of months with my surgeon.”
Shanese Christopher Accounting major 20 years old
“Where does your accent derive from?”
“I am from the Virgin Islands and I came here in 2010 to go to college. My mom wanted us to go away to college so we could know how it feels to be independent. One of my siblings went to New York for college and my other sibling went to D.C. One of them is in the Army and the two others live here in New York. I am the youngest of eight siblings.”
“What’s a good memory about back home?”
“My best memory would have to be a year and half ago when I went back for Christmas. This year I am going back for Christmas, but in January, not in December. My sister had a troop in the carnival back home. Sometimes I miss it, but sometimes it’s just home.”
“What is one huge difference between the Virgin Islands and U.S?”
“The fast pace and everything is much quicker here and there is always stuff to do 24/7. But when I am done with college I am moving to California to help my sister look after my nephew because she is in the Navy. So when she gets deployed, I will be there to watch him.”
Jack Monroe– 19 years – Political science major – sophomore
“What is the biggest disappointment in your life?”
“College. College is supposed to be the best time of your life. I came into college thinking that I am going to learn interesting things about my major that I was apparently interested in a year and a half ago but I don’t. I come to realize that college blows and nothing of it is useful. The only way you’re going to learn is to work. Society makes you take your undergraduate degree, and if you don’t, then the only chances of you succeeding in the real world is slim to none. College is a disappointment because I am forced to be in college. I’d much rather work my (expletive) off and make money and succeed that way, but it’s really hard to do that unless you know someone. College was supposed to prepare me for my job in the future and it’s not. Everything requires a certain amount of past experience but to me that is just B.S.
“Why do you have such an outlook on college?”
“Because you spend all this time and money on college but how much do you actually retain, and how much do you actually just copy and paste? How much of it do you just (expletive)? Everyone is just lazy and they do the least amount of work. You don’t really learn anything; everyone is just after the grade. You are spending four years and a lot of money for barely anything.”
“Any last words?”
“Four years. $25,000.00 a year. That’s $100,000.00. Is it actually worth it?”
“If you could give one piece of advice for a large group of people, what would it be?”
“To never grow up. Growing up is a trap and it sucks.”
“What is the most challenging about growing up?”
“Dealing with taking responsibilities and decision making. Picking something that you will do for the rest of your life is such a scary thought. That was my biggest fear in high school. The best things about growing up is finding yourself, freedom, relationships and friendships. I have really strict parents, so freedom was like ‘yesss’.”
“What is the hardest life lesson you have learned as a grown up?”
“Life is not fair and everything isn’t what it seems. People aren’t what they seem to be, even if you’ve known them for years. At the end of the day, you’re your own cheerleader and supporter; you can’t always trust everyone.”
“Jane” – 24 – Psychology Major
“What was your more frightening moment?”
“I don’t really know what to call it but I woke up to find this guy on top of me. It was definitely a shock to wake up to that. “
“What is the story behind that?”
“Well, I was a teenager and best friends with a older girl who in hindsight was a terrible influence. I skipped school with her, did drugs with her. and hung out with guys with her.
One night I was spending the night at her house and she was hooking up with some guy. Well, that guy had brought his friend along it was really late at night. They went upstairs and I hung out with him for a while. Unlike my friend, I wasn’t inclined to hook up with just any random guy. Being so young at the time, I was fairly naïve and he seemed nice enough for me to let my guard down if I even had a guard up. I eventually fell asleep on the couch and awoke to find myself being penetrated by a random guy.”
Did you ever contact the police?
“I never told anyone. I never went to the cops. I was so afraid of already being in trouble for lying to my parents, I felt like it was my fault because I allowed myself to be in that situation. I know people say it’s not your fault but If I had listened to my parents and not followed the crowd, it wouldn’t have happened.”
“Even after all of the psychology classes I’ve taken I still feel as if it’s my fault. Sometimes I can’t sleep.”
Yesenia Fernandez, Health Science Major
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done?
“Well, I do a lot of things at work that many people would say is weird, but I’d have to go with the time I had to cut up a penis.
I was at work one night and there was this really meek doctor who came in. He had something wrapped in a glove and he said in a really quiet voice, “I need a section of this, please hurry” right away I look at the paper work and see that it says penile partial amputation.
So, I look at the specimen and it was about six inches long. I immediately wondered if there is a mistake in the paperwork and I went to double check it. At this point the doctor is being very impatient and says “Can you please hurry! I need to know if we should go deeper” I tell him I’m going to hurry but are you sure this is a partial amputation?”
He’s very flustered, and says “Yes! the patient is on the table right now! Can you please just hurry?”
Right away I began preparing the sections, it didn’t really bother me, and I’ve cut up about five so far.”
What did it look like?
“Well, I can’t say it looked normal. It was purple from the necrosis. The scary thing about penile cancer is that it’s caused by the HPV virus a sexually transmitted disease so all those guys out there need to be careful or one of their beloved organs might just end up coming across my desk.”
When coming together as a group, the idea of Students of Mercy College which derived from Humans of New York, it was taken as a joke at first. We thought that little to no preparation had to be done and that this would be a breeze, but little did we know that that isn’t true. This experience was different for each of us and we would love to give our insight on how this has affected us …
When the idea was first thought about, I assumed that it was going to be simple and straight to the point, but after interviewing people, I understood how difficult this would be. The original Humans of New York was a huge inspiration. Brandon has so much courage and passion for what he does, which was why I wanted to attempt this project. The different people that I interviewed and the stories behind these individuals were very different and moving. I learned from this experience that every single person has a different story and even though a lot of people look and act similar in this school, that isn’t true with their past and their futures. I left this project with a different mindset then when I first started.
The thought of doing something like HONY with Mercy students seemed so obvious, but so difficult. Who would be so willing to let us into our lives, just so we can get a profound quote for our article? Although it wasn’t easy, we were fortunate enough to interview students who graciously opened a door of secrets and personal issues. They’re insightfulness on life is what made this article possible. Mercy College is such a diverse institution, with so many students coming from different walks of life. It was such an honor to be able to interview such a diverse and interesting group of people. I commend and thank them immensely; without you, this article wouldn’t be nearly as great. Not only has this experience opened my eyes, but it has made me realize how lucky I am to go to attend a college with so many unique individuals.
I like to consider myself a perfectionist, so when I heard about the idea of doing a HONY-esque story about Mercy College, I wasn’t excited to participate. After I realized the bulk of our story relied on interviews, the panic set in. I assumed no one would want to participate, and even if they did, I thought that they may not take it seriously. After reading what was actually put together, I was quite surprised about how rich the content was. It seems everyone has a story they are anxious to tell, whether it be a secret, a nightmare or a dream. I’ve always felt a disconnection between the students of Mercy College; whether it is from the different campuses or even between commuters and residents. My hope is that this story will bring us a bit closer. I hope this story inspires you to reach out to someone new, because you never know what is hiding behind the face sitting beside you.