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Humans of Champaign Rolls Onto Campus Inspired by Humans of New York

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Have you ever scrolled down your newsfeed and come across a photograph depicting a person in New York along with a quoted caption? After reading the post, did you feel like it impacted your day in some minute way?

Brandon Stanton, the creator of Humans of New York (HONY), displays these posts with one goal: to capture the stories of everyday people just like yourself. Little did Stanton realize, his project would eventually become a booming success!

Along with his best selling book, his mesmerizing photo blog and his Facebook page with over 8.3 million followers, Stanton had to begin somewhere. In early 2010 when Stanton initiated the Humans of New York project, he wanted to create a catalogue of 10,000 New Yorkers in all of the different neighborhoods that New York had to offer.

The more and more photographs he captured, he eventually took his project to the next level by complementing the photographs with captions taken from the conversations he would engage in with his subjects.

According to an article from The Epoch Times featuring an interview with Stanton, he says, "Choosing subjects is random and arbitrary." Stanton continually reminds society that we are human beings and that's what all of us share.

Not only has the Humans of New York enthused millions of others to reflect on the countless hardships that people have encountered throughout their lives, but it also has inspired one student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC): Christopher Chae.

Majoring in accounting as well as taking a gap year to focus more on his startup company, Chae has created a community organization known as Humans of Champaign (HOC), inspired by Brandon Stanton's work.

In order to fully capture the attention of his audience, Chae will extract what seems to stands out the most from the conversations he will engage in. For Chae, generally it's something very interesting or motivational.

"Would you say you find it much easier or more difficult doing your work for Humans of Champaign on a campus-filled environment?"

"I find it much easier because students are a group of people who are outgoing and social. Being in this student body community, it does make things easier.

However, there is a downside because if I concentrate on students, then it would be called Humans of the University of Illinois and not Humans of Champaign. So in order to break this barrier, we, as an organization, have to reach out to the locals and not solely the student body."

"Why is it called Humans of Champaign and not Humans of Urbana?"

"Well, Champaign and Urbana are within the boundaries of the Champaign County so it makes it more simple on our part."

"Once you find a person to speak with, how do you go about with your conversation?

"Mostly, I just have them to talk to me first. I find it really weird to say, 'I'm from Humans of Champaign' and briefly describe what we do. I just have them talk to me and hear what they have to say about a specific topic. If I wanted to ask questions, they would be general."

During my interview with Chae, I discovered how big of a fan he was of Humans of New York. In most of the questions I asked, he would somehow find a way to include and connect the subject of HONY in his answers.

Chae states Stanton's work is "absolutely stunning because it motivates, changes and enlightens people's ideas in a way that the city of New York becomes a stronger community through the organization as a whole."

The fact of the matter is that the majority of students going to school at UIUC are not aware of the surrounding community. Chae believes that HOC will have a twofold purpose, to raise awareness towards the student body and strengthen the Champaign-Urbana community all round.

On the other hand, the amount of diversity at the UIUC campus is very large. With that being said, Chae will be able to engage in conversation with those from all over the world.

Essentially, Humans of Champaign will not only be restricted to individuals that are home to one city, like New York. Also, Chae plans to expand Humans of Champaign through different forms of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and WordPress blog.

"Are there any last words you would like to say before we wrap up our interview?" 

"I really hope that people would start becoming interested and liking our Facebook page. In my opinion, I really think that it's a valuable thing to see what others have to say about in your own community. So please like us on our Facebook page: Humans of Champaign and we will run into you very soon!"

Here is the link to the Facebook group here.

By: Walbert Castillo, University of Illinois