Green Bronx Machine
Stephen Ritz is a South Bronx teacher and administrator who believes that students shouldn’t have to leave their community to live, learn, and earn in a better one. Moving generations of students into spheres of personal and academic successes they have never imagined, while reclaiming and rebuilding the Bronx, Stephen’s extended student and community family have grown more than 30,000 pounds of vegetables in the Bronx while generating extraordinary academic performance. His Bronx classroom features the first indoor edible wall in NYC DOE, which routinely generates enough produce to feed healthy meals to 450 students and trains the youngest nationally certified workforce in America. His students, traveling from Boston to Rockefeller Center to the Hamptons, earn living wages en route to graduation. Stephen has consistently moved attendance from 40 percent to 93 percent daily, helped fund and create 2,200 youth jobs, captured the US EPA Award for transforming mindsets and landscapes in NYC, recently won the ABC Above and Beyond Award and the 2012 Chevrolet National Green Educator Award, and helped earn his school the first ever Citywide Award of Excellence from the NYC Strategic Alliance for Health—and Stephen attributes these results directly to growing vegetables in school. The National Association of Secondary School Principals cited Stephen’s work and the Green Bronx Machine as one of five national exemplars of service learning. His speech at Columbia University, entitled “From Crack to Cucumbers,” along with the release of a YouTube Video, “Urban Farming NYC,” resulted in a national following, including an invite to the White House Garden. Recently dubbed the Pied Piper of Peas by Lorna Sass, Stephen has launched the Green Bronx Machine to a national audience and has signed on more than 6,000 local followers in several months. Stephen was just announced as a national Green Apple Education Ambassador for the US Green Building Council. He is currently working on embedding the concepts of sustainability and environmental justice into K-12 programming and beyond. Stephen has electrified and inspired audiences of all types with his “Si se puede” message of hope, urgency and Amer-I-Can innovation. In February 2013, he received the first standing ovation in the thirteen-year history of Green Biz and went on to standing ovations at the United Nations Social Innovation Summit and City Resilient. Stephen was just named a Poptech Fellow. His work has been featured in Forbes, Wall Street Journal, and Fast Track, as well as on CNN, NBC, ABC, NPR and regionally across the country. Dedicated to harvesting hope and cultivating minds, Stephen dreams of opening a nationally replicable Career Technical Education public school in the poorest Congressional District in America rooted in urban agriculture, green, and sustainable initiatives. Stephen recently lost more than 100 pounds by modeling positive behavior and eating what he and his students grow in school.