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I am not a farmer.

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I am not a farmer, says Stephen Ritz a teacher growing green in the South Bronx.

Recently someone posted his TEDx talk on a Facebook group. I watched this, and thought right on! What an inspiration Stephen is getting his students to come to class and be active in their community. This video warmed my heart.

Rather than me telling you about it, I’ll just let Stephen tell you about his story.

This is Stephen’s introduction and part of the translation.

I’m not. I’m a parent, I’m a resident and I’m a teacher. And this is my world. And along the way I’ve started noticing — I’m on my third generation of kids — that they’re getting bigger. They’re getting sicker. In addition to these complexities, I just learned that 70 percent of the kids that I see who are labeled learning disabled would not have been had they had proper prenatal nutrition.

The realities of my community are simple. They look like this. Kids should not have to grow up and look at things like this. And as jobs continue to leave my community, and energy continues to come in, be exported in, it’s no wonder that really some people refer to the South Bronx as a desert. But I’m the oldest sixth grader you’ll ever meet, so I get up every day with this tremendous amount of enthusiasm that I’m hoping to share with you all today. And with that note, I come to you with this belief that kids should not have to leave their communities to live, learn and earn in a better one, Read more

Bio: Stephen Ritz is the founder of the non-profit Green Bronx Machine. He obtained a degree in Urban Studies from SUNY Purchase and a Master’s degree in Special Education from Arizona State University.

Dubbed the “Pied Piper of Peas,” Ritz believes that students shouldn’t have to leave their community to live, learn and earn in a better one. He designed his school’s green initiatives to be rooted in literacy and common core standards to help all students graduate high school and be fully prepared to enter college, pursue post secondary training, and earn a living wage in the process.

Working in a community that struggles with food access, Ritz’s students chose to take the problem into their own hands, building a single vertical garden plot known as a “green wall.” Their Bronx classroom features the first indoor edible wall in NYC Department of Education and routinely generates enough produce to feed healthy meals to 450 students.

Currently, with the help of their extended community, Ritz’s students have grown over 25,000 pounds of vegetables in the Bronx while generating extraordinary academic performance and earning money.

Ritz developed curriculum around the green walls and uses the process to teach science and technology. Through his remarkable guidance, his program has increased attendance from 40% to 93% and helped to fund and create 2,200 youth jobs.

Sourced this information about Stephen


Mari-Lyn Harris

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