New York City

NYC Teacher Nearly Went Broke Helping His Students. Then Humans of New York Stepped Up for Him

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It may arguably be the best story of the day.

A Brooklyn speech and debate teacher was on the verge of going broke after spending thousands of dollars of his own money to help his students compete in Ivy League tournaments — until a popular Instagram page got wind of his story.

The story they shared resonated with tens of thousands of people from around the world, who opened their hearts and their wallets to donate.

"There’s no such thing as tough kids, it's kids who are going through something tough," said teacher K.M. DiColandrea.

Years ago when DiColandrea, who goes by DiCo, was just starting out as a high school teacher in Harlem, that kid was Jonathan Conyers. It was DiCo who introduced Conyers to the world of speech and debate. A couple of Ivy League tournaments later, Conyers earned a full-ride college scholarship and a way out of poverty.

"I want to be people’s DiCo. I want to continue to give back to my community," Conyers said.

But it turns out DiCo needed some help of his own. Shortly before the pandemic, he started the non-profit, Brooklyn Debate League, to help prepare underprivileged students for debate tournaments.

"I didn’t think it was fair that folks who already had the financial means and probably were going to the fancier schools were getting this heads up in middle school," DiColandrea said.

On the surface, the Brooklyn Debate League was flourishing. But on paper, the teacher had to take out 6 thousand dollars out of his savings to keep the program going.

"We were broke. I poured money into this. We were in debt to me," he said.

That’s when Humans of New York got involved. Conyers, a former student of DiColandrea, opened up about his past and how it was his speech and debate coach who changed his life for the better.

"It was the biggest way I could dedicate this to DiCo," Conyers said.

The fundraising page set up for the Brooklyn Debate League continues to get closer and closer to bringing in $1 million.

"The people of New York and around the world have stepped up," DiColandrea said. "Sky’s the limit! Let’s go! Let’s do all the things we’ve wanted to do."

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of DiColandrea throughout.

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