Bronx Educator Named National Life Group “LifeChanger of the Year” Award Winner
Newswise — Bronx, NY – June 9, 2021 – Stephen Ritz, founder of Green Bronx Machine and the National Health, Wellness, and Learning Center at CS 55, has been selected as a 2020-21 national LifeChanger of the Year award winner.
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.