The story of Stephen Ritz is one of total inspiration. It is one of enthusiasm, encouragement, and vision for the future of our children.
I first was introduced to Stephen when he was featured on an episode of "Growing a Greener World," hosted by Joe Lamp'l. This episode won an Emmy Award, and I highly recommend it. You can watch it here. I was very touched by the love and dedication with which he teaches his students.
Stephen teaches at-risk kids in the South Bronx in New York City. This community has some of New York state's highest per capita rates of childhood obesity, diabetes, heart disease, chronic unemployment and underemployment, food insecurity, and food stamp recipients.
Stephen's curriculum teaches the children how to plant seeds and shows them how seeds develop into healthy food. By doing this, they learn that healthy eating will lead to better health, better grades, and hope for a productive future. Thus, the Green Bronx Machine was born as an all-volunteer organization.
The Green Bronx Machine was initially an after school program for high school children but has grown to be part of the school curriculum.
Over the years, the Green Bronx Machine has developed into a National Health and Wellness Center. It boasts an indoor teaching environment as well as teaching the children to cook what they have grown. The vegetables grown in class are cooked into healthy meals and served in the cafeteria and sent home with the children.
The children also bring their produce to the farmer's market, where the money earned is used as gifts for the homeless and needy. In this way, they are learning to give back to their community.
The children now have an attendance rate of 93%, which is up from 40%. The graduation rate is 100%, and the students are going on to post-secondary education or securing living-wage jobs.
Stephen Ritz was a Top 10 finalist for the Global Teacher Prize. He took the $25,000 prize money he received, donated it to the center, and created a model that is now being replicated all around the world.
The Green Bronx Machine also has its curriculum available for purchase on its website, which is only available for sale to schools, community programs, and non-profit organizations.
Stephen is the author of the books "The Power of a Plant: A Teacher's Odyssey to Grow Healthy Minds and Schools" and "Make It Happen!" Proceeds of the books are going to support the Green Bronx Machine. You can buy them here.
Please use the following links to learn about Stephen's journey. I hope you will be as inspired and touched as I am.
Thank you Stephen for the program you have created which will continue to impact the world for many generations to come.