LifeChanger of the Year is an annual program sponsored by the National Life Group Foundation that recognizes and rewards outstanding K-12 educators and school district employees who have demonstrated a proven ability to make a beneficial difference in the lives of students. Ritz was chosen by an independent selection committee out of more than 700 nominees from all 50 states. He will receive a $3,000 cash prize to share with his school.
Ritz originally founded and personally funded Green Bronx Machine (GBM) as an alternative after-school program for high school students focused on creating healthy communities through growing vegetables. Eventually, Ritz and GBM transformed an underutilized library at CS 55 to create the National Health, Wellness, and Learning Center, the first Career Technical Education Elementary School in the country, including a year-round commercial indoor vertical farm and kitchen with solar and alternative energy generators. Today, Ritz’s mission focuses on whole child education, teacher training and the fundamental belief that healthy students drive academic performance and healthy communities.
In the last year alone, GBM and Ritz have distributed more than 115,000 pounds of food, produced 5,000-plus pounds of produce grown locally in the Bronx, built and stocked three new food pantries, delivered weekly 152 backpacks of food to students and fulfilled more than 1,600 emergency food requests from families in need. In the process, he has moved school attendance from 40 percent to 93 percent daily. His work has also helped provide 2,200 youth jobs in the Bronx. Ritz and GBM have also trained nearly 1,500 teachers using GBM’s curriculum, impacting more than 50,000 students in the Bronx and around the world (https://greenbronxmachine.org/2020-impact-report/).
Ritz was surprised with the award on Tuesday at a school-wide assembly with 200 students and faculty by LifeChanger of the Year program director Mallorie Manosh. To read more about Ritz, visit his LifeChanger of the Year profile here.
About LifeChanger of the Year
LifeChanger of the Year winners are selected by an independent committee comprised of past winners and education professionals. To be considered for a LifeChanger of the Year award, nominees must:
- Make a positive impact in the lives of students
- Enhance their school or district’s atmosphere, culture and pride
- Demonstrate exemplary leadership at the school and/or district level
- Possess a proven record of professional excellence
- Show commitment to building a nurturing environment that supports learning
- Adhere to the highest moral and ethical standards
About Green Bronx Machine
Founded in 2011 by Global Teaching Prize finalist and life-long educator Stephen Ritz, Green Bronx Machine (GBM) is an impact driven, for-purpose organization with 501(c)(3) status. GBM builds healthy, equitable and resilient communities through inspired education, local food systems, and 21st Century workforce development. Dedicated to cultivating minds and harvesting hope, its school-based model and propriety curriculum uses urban agriculture aligned to key school performance indicators, to grow healthy students and healthy schools. Simultaneously, GBM also transforms once fragmented and marginalized communities into neighborhoods that are inclusive and thriving. For more information, visit https://greenbronxmachine.org.
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