A teacher at Public School 28 in Brooklyn, N.Y.'s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, where an estimated 80 percent of children qualify for free lunch, overheard a student dismiss Manhattan's expensive American Girl doll store as an unattainable destination — specifically, "a place that white girls go to."
A $14,000 fundraising campaign later, he took 27 girls on a trip that included tea with the store's cast of characters, DNAinfo New York reports. His only goal: to prove to them that they could have the same experiences as anyone else. "I decided I had to help change their perception of themselves and their worth," Rob Robinson said. "This is less about the dolls, and more about telling them you have access to any place."
The money, raised through a website that Robinson set up called "27 Girls of Color to American Girl NYC," allowed Robinson and a group of chaperones to buy the girls dolls, new clothes and shoulder bags. It also paid for a private dining experience with the toys in the store …
On the website, donors were encouraged to donate as little or as much as they could. They also left messages for the young students …
American Girl did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the trip.
This isn't the first time Robinson has taken P.S. 28 kids on trips. In 2011, he took a group of students to the Russian Tea Room, followed by a Broadway show.
Robinson said he was inspired by his own experiences growing up in the Farragut Houses in Fort Greene and participating in the Fresh Air Fund and the NAACP's Brooklyn Youth Council.
Through those programs, he got to experience more of the country than he would have otherwise been able to, Robinson said.
"There are things outside the physical walls that I lived in," Robinson said. "I lived in the projects. That showed me there was a whole world outside of that."
Read more at DNAinfo New York.