I got this wonderful and inspiring story from: http://pageeasy.com/StephenRitz
Why Stephen Ritz is Extraordinary
Stephen Ritz is xionate about inciting xion among his students. Yes, he is a teacher, and calls himself the “oldest sixth grader.” He founded the “Green Bronx Machine,” a non-profit organization which had its humble beginnings at the Discovery School in the Bronx. This part of New York City is home to many gang wars, disturbed teens and endless fast-food chains; it’s certainly not an ideal place to raise healthy, promising kids. But lo and behold! Stephen transformed his once-violent students into responsible kids, building homes for the residents of the community and planting edible walls across the neighborhood. Stephen is a proud “conductor of this orchestra” of talent.
The “Green Bronx Machine”
Stephen founded the “Green Bronx Machine” in 2010, rather through serendipity. He had always loved gardening, and considered maintaining one in his school to attract more students. The school had a dismal attendance rate of 40% at the time, but the garden worked, and was improved further by the edible walls of Green Living Technologies.
How did it change lives? Stephen explains:
"For many, the first thing that changed was attendance. We went from 40 to 93 percent — kids come early and stay late. School became a destination to attend as opposed to one that was avoided. Then, parents and the community got involved and it really took off.
Consequently, we are changing the way people think about their world and their relationship to it while moving people who are traditionally “apart from” success to becoming “part of” success in ways that are wholly inclusive and beneficial to all. Closer to home, we are changing eating habits, health outcomes, transforming landscapes and mindsets and driving academic engagement and competencies in ways we never imagined. It is all very visible – the students see it, grow it, feel it, taste it and own it; as a result it is self-sustaining and very inspiring! 25,000 pounds of Bronx vegetables later, my favorite crop remains organically grown citizens, graduates, voters and the next generation of “Amer-I-Cans!” We are proving that the Bronx CAN – Change Attitudes Now – and that we are poised, ready, willing and able to export our talent and diversity in ways that make dollars and a whole lot of sense. Realize this, we’ve been able to move Individualized Education Program (IEP)/English Language Learners (ELL) students – almost all formerly living in poverty with many homeless and/or in foster care — into living wage opportunities while attending school and doing it in ways that transform and benefit our entire environment. That is the promise of education and America. The greening of America starts with wallets, then hearts and then minds.” (SOURCE: Daily Edventures)
His initiative has created 2,200 youth jobs, which led to him winning the “US EPA Award” for transforming mindsets and landscapes in NYC. He also won the “ABC Above and Beyond Award” and received the “Chevrolet National Green Educator Award” in 2012. He is also now a Poptech Fellow.