His Students Are Always Hungry And Seldom Go To School, Then He Builds This And Things Change

His Students Are Always Hungry And Seldom Go To School, Then He Builds This And Things Change

Stephen Ritz is a South Bronx teacher/administrator who believes that students shouldn’t have to leave their community to live, learn and earn in a better one. Ritz teaches science in the nation’s poorest congressional district, at Community School 55 in the South Bronx.

After suffering the tragic loss of his twins, Stephen refocused his energy on helping other kids. Stephen teaches in Public School 55 in New York City’s South Bronx. The school had a 17% graduation rate, violence, poverty, and 99% of the kids attending the school qualified for free or reduced lunches. 77% of the kids Stephen teaches have some form of learning disabilities. If they had proper pre-natal nutrition, many of those disabilities wouldn’t be there.

The Green Bronx Machine.

Stephen was given a box of daffodil bulbs and hid them behind the school’s radiator to prevent the kids from throwing them at each other. One day, one of the kids discovered the daffodils had bloomed, and there were hundreds of flowers behind the radiator.


This got Stephen thinking. They could grow food indoors and outdoors all year round, using a new technology that is low cost and requires 90% less space and 90% less water. Stephen and his students have installed over 100 gardens in New York City alone. They’ve pioneered a food production business that gives food security and urban renewal, while teaching students key skills at the same time.

The program has also created a boost in the health for everyone involved. Stephen himself has lost over 100 pounds. The students, many of whom had learning disabilities created by poor nutrition, have also seen an increase in their nutritional health, and overall well-being.

The program, which is fully integrated into school’s the core curriculum, has raised the school’s daily attendance rate from 40% to 93%, with 100% passing state standardized tests, and increased gradation. It also created over 2,200 student jobs, and local crime has fallen significantly.


    The Green Bronx Machine project has created a place where people want to learn and work.

    Reaping the benefits

    While Stephen had to overcome a lot of bureaucratic, political, and socio-economic odds to see the project through to fruition, He overcame those odds to take generations of young, underprivileged at-risk students to incredible academic and economic success.


      Stephen was invited to The White House Garden

      Stephen’s extended student and community family have grown over 25,000 pounds of vegetables in the Bronx while generating extraordinary academic performance.


      His Bronx classroom pioneered the first indoor edible wall in NYC DOE which routinely generates enough produce to feed 450 students healthy meals and trains the youngest nationally certified workforce in America. His students, traveling from Boston to Rockefeller Center to the Hamptons, earn living wage on their way to graduation.

      I love teaching because every day I get to do something great! Every day I get to lead children and colleagues on a new quest, we get to do something new, we practice, we dream, we learn and we work together! I’m also the oldest sixth grader you’ll ever meet; inherently, I too am very curious and easily excited – it’s a perfect storm!”



        Stephen Ritz has been nominated for the Global Teachers prize for his work on the Green Bronx machine. Going far beyond his focus on academics, he is on a mission to improve job development and address environmental, food and social justice issues in the Bronx and beyond.

        If awarded the Prize, Stephen would use the funds to invest in the Health, Wellness and Biodiversity Center that he is currently working to set up in the South Bronx – “a place of wonder, inquiry and engagement for students, teachers, parents and the whole community”.

        Stephen Ritz has inspired Americans everywhere with his message of hope, urgency, resilience and Amer-I-Can innovation.


        Featured photo credit: Peter Hershey via

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        9 Harsh But True Illustrations that Show Our Changed Society

        9 Harsh But True Illustrations that Show Our Changed Society

        Let’s face it.  We are living in a digital age, and there is absolutely no turning back. One of the biggest influences on society these days is social media. It affects us both positively and negatively. Social media was originally designed for people to share interesting facets of their lives with their friends, but it has become so much more than what it intended to be. It is now a medium for information to pass around the globe. In many cases, people first learn about current events through Twitter or Facebook before hearing about them from conventional news sources.

        We also rely on technology for nearly everything we do. People these days seem as if they can’t go anywhere or do anything without their smartphones, tablets, or laptops. They need to be in constant contact with others via electronic devices.

        However, there is also a downside to be too connected to social media and electronic devices. We are too dependent on them, which make us oblivious to what we are doing to ourselves. Being too connected can have a negative effect on our lives and the society as a whole. Here are 9 true illustrations that show how our society is negatively impacted because of the use of technology.

        1. Facebook is eating away at your time.

        Facebook is eating away your time

          How much time do you usually spend each day on Facebook or other social networking sites? Is it hindering your productivity? Do you find yourself wasting time to a point where you don’t even know where it goes? If the answer is yes, Facebook might have eaten away at your time.


          2. We’ve become “Likeaholics.”


            When you are posting something on Facebook, are you doing it just to see how many of your friends will give it the proverbial thumbs up? This illustration shows that some people are treating “Likes” on Facebook as if it was a drug they needed to inject into their bloodstreams.

            3. Our electronics have priority over our lives.


              Given a choice between your dying phone battery or you dying, which will you choose? In this case, the man in this illustration chose to charge his phone over to sustain his own life. As a society, we need to be more careful of our priorities.


              4. Families aren’t spending quality time together.

              mother baking

                Here is a mother making holiday cookies, but what are the kids doing? They are not making cookies with their mother. Instead, every one of them has their faces buried in their own electronic devices. Television used to be what parents use to babysit their kids. Now, it’s a tablet, phone, laptop or video game that does the job.

                5.  We’d rather record someone than help them.


                  A lot is happening in this illustration. A black man is drowning and asking for help. One person has a gun pointed at him. The other person has their iPhone pointed at him and is recording the scene, but is not interested to help this man.


                  6. Society is sleeping, it’s sleeping its life away.

                  sleeping your life away

                    Time is money. After we have wasted the long period of time on social media, we are losing the most valuable currency we have – our time in this world.

                    7.  Despite all the technology we have, we still want what someone else has.

                    wanting what someone else is having

                      There’s an old saying that goes, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” This illustration shows that despite all that we have, we are still not satisfied with our lives.


                      8. Sensationalism still sells.

                      free expression

                        With the information overload that exists today, the media still looks for sensationalism. Here’s a woman who feels she has something important to say, but the media only cares about her because she is naked. Would the news media still have microphones in front of her if she wasn’t standing there topless?

                        9. In the end, with all of this, we are still killing the planet.

                        gun to mother earth

                          This last illustration argues that despite all of our technological gains, we are still polluting the earth as if we have a virtual gun pointed at Mother Nature. As we build bigger cities and higher technology, how much more damages can we continue to do before putting our lives at risk?


                          Featured photo credit: Jens Johnsson via

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