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The Human Experience: The Stephen Ritz Story

Updated on August 3, 2012
Stephen Ritz and his students
Stephen Ritz and his students | Source
Inside Ritz's classroom
Inside Ritz's classroom | Source
More inside of classroom
More inside of classroom | Source
Rockefeller Center rooftop garden
Rockefeller Center rooftop garden | Source

How many times during my eighteen years of teaching have I heard my students say they can’t do something? The familiar excuses inevitably follow: It’s too hard, or I don’t know how, or I can’t do it alone.

How many times during my lifetime have I heard a friend say they can’t do something? The familiar excuses inevitably follow: It’s too hard, or I don’t know how, or I can’t do it alone.

Well my friends, I’m here to tell you, it’s all hogwash!

We have been given the tools to succeed, but all too often success is beyond our grasp, simply because we have programmed ourselves for defeat and failure. I call it GIGO, or garbage in, garbage out, and it infects so many people these days that it is epidemic in nature. I can’t do that! I would never be able to do that! I will fail if I try that! There is no way that it is possible!

Well my friends, if those thoughts infect your thinking, then you are a self-fulfilling prophet!

Our minds are wondrous in nature; beautifully functioning computers that accept data given and spew out data based on input. If you keep inputting negativity then you can bet the farm that negativity will be the result. In other words, the more you tell yourself that you can’t do something, the more you will come to believe it, and that negative cycle will spill over into every facet of your life. I know this to be true because I have witnessed it far too often in my life. I know this to be true because at one time I lived that negative cycle.

But no longer!

Today I believe in the power of one person! Today I believe that people are capable of incredible things, and those things can be accomplished if willingness is part of the equation. I would like to share with you a story about one such person. Stephen Ritz is his name and he is a Special Education Teacher in South Bronx, New York.

DETERMINATION AND PASSION

Ritz is a whirling dervish of energy and this man is seriously passionate about his students. In his words, “my students are the most marginalized and disenfranchised in New York City. They live in the poorest congressional district in America and the situation is not improving. They are getting fatter, sicker and poorer…they come to school hungrier and needier than ever.”

He goes on to say, “Kids should not have to leave their community to find a better life,” and he adds that when he wakes up each morning he hopes his reach extends beyond his grasp. In other words, he dreams big and then finds a way to make the dreams happen.

In 2009 his class built an edible wall in the classroom. Ritz was trying at the time to find a way to make the curriculum interesting for his kids. Evidently he succeeded because within six months the students were growing enough fresh vegetables to feed 450 students a fresh vegetarian meal every ninety days.

His attendance rate rose from 43% to 90% and they extended their efforts to include a student-run farmers market that attracted over 500 local parents and neighborhood residents. It was clearly time to expand the efforts. After all, why would Ritz want to rest on his laurels when there were still dreams to be actualized?

BIGGER AND BETTER

While learning urban farming in the classroom, Ritz’s students also learned constructions skills, and eventually they took their show on the road and took on jobs repairing affordable housing in the South Bronx. They formed a nonprofit organization called Green Bronx Machine and the kids earned between $15 and $20 per hour while attending high school.

By the end of 2010 they had installed green roofs and green walls at Rockefeller Center in New York, the John Hancock Tower in Boston, and in multi-million dollar private residences in Long Island.

The first ten participants in the Green Bronx Machine went from being underprivileged, overweight and under-motivated to healthy high school graduates who are now attending college.

Unfortunately, in August 2011, Ritz’s program at Discovery School was discontinued.

That, however, is not the end of the story!

TO INFINITY AND BEYOND

So, the school pulls the program! What to do? Well, for Ritz, the answer was to take the show on the road. In February they will present their work to the U.S. Secretary of Education at a teachers’ conference on green schools in Denver.

The Blue Green Alliance, a grassroots group that creates green jobs, has spread the word about Ritz’s program to Philadelphia, Houston and Detroit. The program, to say the least, is alive and well, and because of the efforts and unending enthusiasm of Stephen Ritz, kids are getting a chance where once no chance was available.

IS IT POSSIBLE ANYWHERE IN AMERICA?

I’m here to tell you that the answer is yes. Let me tell you two experiences I have been involved in during my lifetime.

In 1969 I was a college junior at Seattle University, which at that time was located in a predominantly black neighborhood. This was during a time of great racial unrest in the United States, and I will be the first to tell you that there were times I did not feel safe walking outside of the campus.

I was taking a Sociology class at the time and we were challenged by the professor to develop a project that would give back to the community. My roommate and I decided to start a reading program for the underprivileged kids of the Central District. We made flyers, distributed them around the area, hung them up on bulletin boards and gave them to school administrators.

Within a month we had our first class of five kids and we worked with them on their reading skills twice a week. I am happy to say that those five kids improved their reading skills greatly over the next year. I am happier to relate that our program is still going strong at Seattle University forty-three years later.

Years later when I was teaching at a middle school in Beaverton, Oregon….this was in 2008…I got this weird idea that our school should have an outdoor classroom. I drew up plans for an unused lot on school grounds and then took the plans to the principal. To my complete surprise she approved the plans and one year later we had a greenhouse, community garden, raised flower beds for each class, and a butterfly garden.

SO WHAT IS THE POINT?

The point is not to tell you how cool I am! The point is that I believe in the Stephen Ritz’s of this world. I believe each one of us is capable of doing great things, but those great things will never be accomplished if we give up at the first sign of adversity.

There will always be obstacles! There will always be reasons why you can’t do something! There will always be people who will tell you that it is impossible! Sadly, there will always be people who will shrink away from their goals at the first sign of adversity. Personally, I think that is very sad. I know of no other way to describe it….it saddens me!

I will tell you something that makes me sadder still….there are those who no longer dream of better days. There are those who have been so beaten down that they cannot conceive of their lives ever improving. The light of hope is missing in their eyes and each day brings a continuation of the same helplessness that has marked their lives for many years. That, my friends, is the personification of sad!

I believe in the human spirit! Stephen Ritz is not an illusion. He is a living, breathing human being who saw a problem and found a way to fix it. He saw the obstacles, he was told of the hopelessness, and he said “to hell with it” and found a way!

I am tired of hearing people say they can’t do something. I am tired of the excuses, bellyaching and whining. Whatever happened to the will to succeed in this country? Our ancestors walked across the country in search of a better life. Our ancestors fought wars, survived the Great Depression and refused to give up when faced with staggering odds. Where is that determination today?

Do not tell me you can’t do it! Do not tell me it is too hard!

FIND A WAY!

2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

For more of the Human Experience series, see the following:

http://billybuc.hubpages.com/hub/The-Human-Experience-The-Arthur-Boorman-Story

http://billybuc.hubpages.com/hub/The-Human-Experience-The-Ryan-Hreljac-Story

To purchase any of my books on Kindle, go to:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=William%20D.%20Holland

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Trinity, I hope you watched part of the Ritz video at the end; the guy is a dynamo! That kind of energy is infectious and his story is so inspirational. Thank you for brightening my day with your visit.

    • Trinity M profile image

      Trinity M 5 years ago

      I love this hub. It is another example of the indomitable human spirit. My family’s motto is “If one person can do it then anyone can do it”, and we try to live by these words. Stephen Ritz is an inspiration who leads by example, as are you my dear friend. I love Stephen’s hands-on approach and his “never-give-up-ness”; truly inspirational. Thanks Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Dianna! Ritz is something else for sure! He had me inspired and I'm retired from teaching. That's quite a trick! LOL

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      The Ritz story is quite impressive. We need more teachers like this to inspire our youth. I agree that some people fall short of the goal when it is just around the corner. It is sad that they just give up. Loved your video and the pep talk.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Amy, you will never be an intrusion. This is what friends do for each other...they reach out.

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      That is so generous of you, Bill. I have you saved in my cell phone! I may just take you up on that one of these days. I just don't want to be an intrusion.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you RunAbstract; I appreciate it!

    • RunAbstract profile image

      RunAbstract 5 years ago from USA

      Very good Hub! I enjoyed the writing, and the subject!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Amy, my heart soars as I read your comment. Do you know what I love about you? You have taken a beating and you have refused to give up. That, dear lady, is a recipe for success. I have not been patient wit you Amy; I have granted you the room to vent as any friend would allow. You needed an outlet; I happen to think the world of you and I'm proud that you chose me to talk with.....you can always call if you need to hear a friend's voice....360-878-1757. I'm just a man, Amy, but I am a compassionate man who will listen any time you need to talk.

      love from afar,

      bill

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Bill, thank you so much for taking the time to do like you always do, think, consider and then give me your best. When my circumstances suddenly changed awhile back, I thought it was the end of the world. It has been a process reinventing myself. The strangest thing happened while I was in mourning. I didn't reinvent, I became authentic. I found hubpages through a friend, also laid off, when I told him I loved writing. I'd never written poetry before I landed here. Today, I read a hub by Suzette Naples and felt that things are changing, things are happening, Bill. I have only a basic education, not like you and Suzette, both extraordinary teachers. Suzette wrote an article on John Donne, the best of the original metaphysical poets. I had no idea that either existed. To my amazement, after reading Suzette's article and some of Donne's poetry that she included, I felt a connection. Rather than take up too much of your space, if you would, Bill (she mentions you in her comments back to me), please check out Part I of her series on John Donne. You will see what I mean when I say I feel on top of the world. Thank you for your understanding and patience with me, Bill. I'm growing and getting better everyday.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      tobusiness, this is one guy I would love to meet in person. His energy lights up a room and I would love to see teachers inspired by him. Thank you!

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 5 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Billy you've really captured the imagination here, when you tell someone often enough that they cannot do something, guess what? thy begin to believe it. However, if you show them that they can achieve, they will surprise themselves. Love this guy Ritz, love your motivating hub.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Audrey, he is a bundle of energy, isn't he? So glad you liked it! Thank you my friend!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Bill - This is absolutely inspiring. I was rivited to the video and energy of Ritz. What a good man. Thank you for this introduction. Up and sharing and rated across.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sharilee, the sky is the limit in the classroom of an inspired teacher....and yet an uninspired teacher finds limits wherever they look. I thought the classroom was my own personal experiment lab...I just kept trying new stuff and I had so much fun along the way. I know you will too, as soon as that school hires you. Blessings to you this fine Saturday my dear friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      healthylife, I think we all need that reminder...I know I do...in fact, I suspect I write these hubs as much for me as anyone else. :) Thank you for the visit.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 5 years ago from Canada

      Bill, it sure does give me inspiration for that job I am going to get. :) I loved what he did here in making it what we would now call "authentic learning," and "task-based assessment." He gave them a chance to do something and they did with aplomb.

      He is obviously a very talented guy who could have been putting his talents into a business to make profits, but instead put his gifts into helping others build a life.

      I am so inspired. It gives me support to teach the way I like to teach -- with authenticity and creativity. Because I do not have gardening skills, I probably won't have my students planting indoor gardens. But I hope to have them performing plays and publishing their own books.

      The principles you outline in this article, with awesome examples, can be applied to any classroom and teacher. Each teacher brings something different to the situation. And every class is different.

      But the important thing is to get the kids doing something -- rather than just sitting there filling in blanks on meaningless pieces of paper. Loved it, Bill! Happy Saturday.

    • healthylife2 profile image

      Healthy Life 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Stephen Ritz is beyond inspirational and so are you for writing all these awesome hubs! I am definitely guilty of thinking things are too difficult or too much of a hassle to do. Thank you for reminding me that with determination, hard work, and true passion anything is possible!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Amy, I saved this for over a day so that my reflections had some meaning behind them.

      Do I understand? Most definitely! I struggled for decades, and there were so many times I needed a helping hand. Oftentimes it was nowhere to be found.....but finally one reached out....and it was that one who saved me until I could save myself. Oh yes my friend....I understand.

      I am not a terrible religious human being. Most of the time I put my trust in myself and look to myself for the answers and solutions. I do, however, believe in karma....I believe that eventually what should come around does come around. I have a dogged determination that does not fail me. I can keep my eye on the prize despite continual setbacks. Someone called it a warrior's spirit....it makes no difference the name...I know that you have it as well.

      I will not be defeated.....nor will you....knock us down...step on us...we will get back up, and up, and up again....because there is no quit in us.

      It is one of the many reasons why I admire you so.

      Blessings and peace to you today my dear friend! You can speak anytime to me and I will listen.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Tim,

      I think I learned more about you from that one comment than I have known in six months. I value comments...I value introspection and the constant thirst for learning. Through your comments I have the chance to know you as a person, if that is truly possible through the written word.....and that is one of the prime motivators for me in writing. I want that human connection. Look at what HubPages has given me....friends from Escondido...friends from South Africa....friends from the UK....friends around the world. I think that is remarkable and I am grateful for each and every one of them, and each and every comment.

      You can kidnap my comment section any old time you want. I loved your comments and now I feel I have moved closer to knowing you as a person....and for that I am grateful.

      Peace and happiness to you always,

      bill

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 5 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Thank you Billy. You have commented of late and encouraged me immensely. I am emphatically thankful. As I state, generally I read more than comment and then vote. Yet, I confess, I forget many times, so not a lie really, it is a mental thingy. Realizing that I have a note on my monitor saying Vote Silly Boy. For years I kept a pocket size notepad in my 'geek' pocket. I wrote notes, yet forgot to read them.

      What I am saying is this hub is inspiring. Although not a great thing in size, I believe I shall comment much more. Although I shall read less doing that enterprise since I type maybe 20 or so words a minute, yet oddly read near 600 - 700. I take power reading at Palomar College about every 4 years to get a tune-up. I usually take that class after a manic break too, which is of late.

      One reason I do not leave comments is like this comment, I wander way too much. I seek to connect with the author the impact of the article regarding either me or life. Even though you spoke of Ritz and the green world, listening I heard reading. As many know that is passion of MissOlive too and many teachers here at HP.

      I think what your message is kinda' is that Ritz found a niche and filled it. The niche being a need of culture or society within a specific setting. The miracle is it grew to proportions beyond the original imagination. I am sure he really only wanted a garden for a teaching tool for those original students. I believe those original five students of reading were the catalyst to what cannot be counted today.

      I see this is becoming a hub. See what I meant by a comment and a reply. Here in is where a 'Tug of War' exists for me. I could have said great article, thank you, moved on and read seeking more knowledge. Today I ponder if that is greed and avarice. Odd. One only has to venture to a hub I've written and see my comments could be a hub like this. I say that is my turf, so my rules.

      I'm a taking advantage of you Billy, so I ask forgiveness. Continuing. What occurs for me when I leave a comment of this length is I wind up reading the hub article maybe as many as five times in order to keep my thoughts in alignment. The result is that hub is not bits and bytes in my personal computer of gray matter, but has an impact of relevance to life quests and decision making. And then I think of synchronicity. Or one may say the hub becomes part of the heart if not the soul evolving passed the mind.

      I am not sure, yet I think that is the point of this exercise some may say is futility, yet I believe you along with the wizardry of hubpages set me up - lol. Synchronicity. hmmmmmmm. The message I hear, now (pondering Eckhart Tolle and Gateways to Now), is this. Me reading as much as I can is the same effect as a mass merchandiser. Quantity and value come into play. Me slowing down reading less and commenting more (maybe not as near as long) a small business may come to fruition and along with that contentment instead of demands.

      I think I will do this exercise while again asking forgiveness. Yet, I will comment on my PC file somewhere when a hub causes an effect such as this, then summarize in the comment. You are a Great Teacher Billy, and you did reach your audience and the readership as well. Well done, kudos, and I will vote.

      tim

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Awww, Bev, I think you love me.....big grin....thank you darling!.....shhh, don't tell anyone, but you are my inspiration.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      rfmoran, thank you for your kindness. I must admit I don't understand why more teachers don't do the extras....it is not that difficult....it just requires a willingness. Sigh!

      Have a great weekend my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Froggy, yes indeed.....I told someone once that the day I decided to write full time I became a writer. They said well no, you have to accomplish something first....and I said I have....I declared that I was a writer. To me that sealed the deal...I declared I was a writer and in my mind I was.

      Thank you and blessings to you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lastheart, you have my admiration for what you do; I'm sure you get very little encouragement or reward for doing a very difficult job. I just want you to know that what you do matters, and there are those of us who know what you have to do, and we admire you greatly.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      vnsatakopan, I agree completely of course. I have seen quite a few bad teachers over the years, those who won't go beyond the expected. I have seen a handful of excellent teachers, those willing to go way beyond the expected.

      Thank you for the visit and the great comment.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Rajan, I so agree....and if it is possible for Ritz then it is possible for almost anyone. If only people would try!

      Thank you kind Sir! Have a wonderful weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Au fait, I love that you don't allow the word "can't" in your vocabulary. It is too easy to give up....and far too many people are doing that these days....we need more mothers like you.

      Thank you and have a wonderful weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      TT, I hope the nap revitalized you.....much to do this weekend you know.....I will be writing and sweating in our first 90 degree temp in two years.

      Thanks buddy!

    • kingmaxler profile image

      kingmaxler 5 years ago from Olympia, Washington USA

      Oh my Bill, thank you for your constant inspiration. I love your words and your spirit. Everything you do matters and you have put your mark on the world. I adore you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mhatter, it is so possible for anyone....why are some people wired this way and some not? Oh well, we will celebrate the ones who are.

      Thank you!

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran 5 years ago from Long Island, New York

      We all need to find our inner Stephen Ritz. This is an inspiration. What one great teacher, like you or Ritz can do is amazing. Thanks Bill for this wonderful story.

    • Froggy213 profile image

      Greg Boudonck 5 years ago from On A Mountain In Puerto Rico

      Yes, Billy; a wonderful hub! Negative does breed negative. I know that as a writer I was told many times that you can't do that. You're not a writer. Well, the news is out! I let their negative fly by and I am a writer. We can do what we set our hearts to do and mountains can move with Faith.

    • Lastheart profile image

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 5 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      I started reading this hub last night but I was too sleepy and it was too interesting to not get deep into the words with the message. I am a Special Education teacher and the "System" sometimes pull you down. I have still two more years to go and the first of August, the first day of school, many of us wish it was the last. Thanks for this inspiring and encouraging hub. I have a knot in my throat as I write holding my tears not to come out but reviled by a running nose. I told froggy213 to read and I will also share it. Thanks "getting a chance where once no chance was available." ...that is the attitude!!!!

    • vnsatakopan profile image

      Dr.Vangeepuram Navaneetham Satakopan 5 years ago from Chennai, India

      Inspiring hub showing that where there is a will, there is a way. This also goes to show that the role of a good teacher goes beyond the classroom teaching. Undoubtedly, a teacher is in a great position to influence students provided he is willing to put in some effort.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      What an inspiring story, Bill. I'm reminded of the saying,'where there's a will, there's a way'. Your story and the story of this amazing man Stephen Ritz, proves nothing is impossible.

      Voted up and across, my friend and shared it.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 5 years ago from North Texas

      There are people everywhere far worse off than most of us, and yet they do amazing things. I let my daughter know very early that the word "can't" is not in our vocabulary. When things get tough we have to make up our minds to be tougher.

      Most of the people who succeed are the people who refuse to give up, not necessarily the people with the highest IQs or the most education, and talent, etc.

      How a person perceives themselves and their abilities makes such a difference. Henry Ford said if you think you can, or if you think you can't, either way, you're probably right.

      Great hub!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Bill, another home run! I love the way you highlight people that are trying to make a difference one person at a time. Eventually, these folks will slowly make a difference. I love to see how they don't have any quit in 'em and a spirit of 'what can I do today to make a difference?!' Love it! :) I need to go take a nap after reading this. :)

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      You are so right! There are heroes all around us and opportunities for more.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha, you are so right....I'll do my part, you do yours, and we'll see what kind of trouble we can stir up....but I can say without a doubt my political days are over.

      Have a wonderful weekend my friend; I need to go spend some time with Bev.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Cyndi, that's why I like hanging with you...I like positive people....I feed off of your energy and others like you....thank you for being who you are and have a great weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Debbie...high praise from such a good and caring person. Have a wonderful weekend and God bless you as well.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Sue; you are very sweet...one of those people I wish I could meet some day. I appreciate you..have a great weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lyric, he has changed so many lives already and he's just getting started...it is a beautiful story and thank you for reading it. Have a great weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Ruby! My days of political activism are gone. Now I have a one man movement; that I can control and I need no political contributions!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Vellur, it is a pretty exciting thing when an idea generates excitement in students...one of those moments I will never forget.

      Thank you my friend and have a wonderful weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Julie; that is very nice of you! Have a great weekend!

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      Bill every time I read your hubs.. I get so inspired... You have the best hubs.. I love to hear how people take the impossible and make it possible.. Ritz like you sounds like a very inspiring person..God bless you my friend

      Debbie

    • profile image

      Sueswan 5 years ago

      Hi Bill,

      The children's story , "The Little Engine That Could" came to my mind.

      I would change , "I think I can, I think I can" to I know I can, I know I can.

      We need more teachers like Stephen Ritz and yourself who have passion and see the potential in their students; who inspire and challenge them. Sometimes all it takes is knowing that someone believes in us.

      Voted up and away.

      Sharing

      Take care :)

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 5 years ago from West Virginia

      Bill, another great article my friend! I always find articles like this inspirational. There is nothing like a true inspirational story. It shows what one single person can do in the big ole world. I find happiness in helping others so I can relate to this on a personal level. If you put in the time and hard work, you can accomplish anything. Point noted Bill, great work. A great dedication to a man that has changed lives.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This is such a heart warming story. It proves the fact, if there's a will there's a way.. I am more than pleased that you do not take a political stance. One party can not be blamed when they all have the money men in their pockets. Thank you for sharing a great story..

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      Awesome hub, positively inspiring - Never Give up. Stephen Ritz's edible wall was a wonderfully creative idea. A flower bed and a butterfly garden for each class must have really drawn the students interests and involvement like a magnet. Voted up, awesome and interesting.

    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 5 years ago from Clinton CT

      Wow, this was inspirational. I loved it so much I am going to share! :)

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      Shauna L Bowling 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Bill, until the election of 2008, I too never talked politics or religion. Both are heated subjects and can lead to arguments. In fact, I never even voted until this last election because I didn't want to be the one vote that never came. I've become more vocal and I don't like it one bit. My rose-colored glasses have no room for such lies, schmoozing and more lies. But this time 'round, "what I don't know doesn't hurt me" isn't working because we are personally being invaded.

      Your response to my comment says it all. It is up to us to make a change, and I think that was my point before I went off into a harangue.

      We need to stand up to poverty, rape, violence, degradation, abomination, anhillation, (words from a 60's song by Sly and the Family Stone!0) and disrespect of human beliefs, thoughts, mores, morals, peace and will.

      We need to speak up now and act. History repeats itself. We've not seen this history in our government, but let's revert to the 60's and the voice that was loud and clear: Hell No We Won't Go. But let's modify the chant for a new rant and action, not just lip service:

      Our kids need more,

      the freedom to explore.

      To do good on this Earth

      and Know their Worth!

      I don't know how it will be if we have to resort to revolution. But it won't be the first time this country fought for it's people, it's land and it's rights!

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Find a way. You are right. It's so about your frame of mind and thought. Every day I wake up, look in the mirror and tell myself I'm a successful writer, a successful artist, and a successful blogger. I have no doubt I will get there. There is no alternative. It just is. :) Thanks to friends like you, I see that. The Ritz's in the world prove it. You are what you embody. That's why I like "hanging" out with you, Big Bro.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Suzette, thank you so much. I love you not allowing "can't " to be said in your classroom. What a wonderful lesson to teach someone. I wouldn't allow it either, and I also wouldn't just give them an answer to their questions...I made them figure it out with my help. I have had lazy kids walk into my classroom but never had a lazy one walk out. :) Bless you and have a wonderful weekend.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha,

      I stay away from political conversations for one simple reason: I don't think it makes a damn bit of difference who is President, or Senator, or whatever. As long as special interest groups are allowed to put millions of dollars into the coffers of politicians, we will never be represented the way we should be as taxpayers.

      Having said that, I believe it is up to us to make the changes and not rely on government one bit. We need to get our own personal house in order so that we don't need the government for anything. Ritz beautifully personifies that theory....his program was shut down so he just went ahead and did it himself....and that's what we all have to do.

      Thanks my friend.and I wish you a wonderful weekend.

      love always,

      bill

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      Suzette Walker 5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Oh Bill, what a wonderful and inspiring article. I agree with you one hundred percent. I guess because we are teachers, we can see the potential in everyone. We are always finding solutions to "impossible problems" and teaching those we are told are unteachable. The word "can't" never existed in my classroom. My students were told this the first day of class and they were not permitted to use the world in my classroom. We CAN do anything we put our minds to. I won't do it here, but I can also give examples of success stories in the classroom that people would be surprised about. I can't get over the wonder hubs you write - one right after another. I always look forward to reading one of your hubs each day. You are such a fine writer and an inspiration to all of us. Thank you so much for such a heartwarmikng positive story and Steve Ritz. Now, I wish athe media would pick up on this story.

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      Shauna L Bowling 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Bill, the only reason I threw in the monkey wrench is because you said they were going before the Secretary of Education. With all the czars in place and the American people being stomped on since Obamacare, I fear for those who want to restore America and help our own.

      I got an email today from Daddy (retired USAF), who's in an assisted care facility. It was an email from a friend fof his asking him to send it out as far as it would reach (removing his name and email address, of course). It simply stated that a vital medication this man needs and has been waiting for a week for authorization to have it filled, was deemed by Blue Cross, that the 4 doctors who concurred/prescribed whatever it is, has been reduced to 1/3 the prescribed dosage/frequency! This man is elderly. Obamacare has made life for the elderly unbearable. It's almost as if he wants to eradicate those with needs. Except of course, the illegal aliens who have carte blanche to our jobs, social security and food stamps. And let's not forget the women who earn a living collecting welfare for each illegitmate child they birth. I heard the other day, one woman in Orlando, receives $70,000 in welfare for the 6 kids she has and is fixin' to give birth to another, entitling her to more! Are you kidding me? I don't make that much in a year working full time and paying taxes!!!!

      I know, I'm off on a tangent, but with the budget cuts in schools, particularly in the area of arts or self-betterment (my son's high school from which he graduated is shutting down their JROTC program) it kills me that the government is eliminating character building programs, which is so needed today, because this generation's parent's don't seem to teach morals, mores and responsibility, as did ours and all preceding us. It frightens me when good is being done but must meet the approval of our current government.

      And now it seems I'm barking up Ghost32 and the Frog Prince's trees, so I'll quit, but I've one last thing to say:

      In keeping with Hubbers for Happiness Happens, we can all make a difference if we perservere and march forth. Stephen Ritz had a good thing going until the school board (government) shut him down. But that didn't stop him, nor is it stopping those who have come alive because of his out-of-the-box teaching. It seems he'll keep going even if the Education Department doesn't give him funding. He's created a spark in these kids and it's spreading like wildfire.

      We Americans need to do the same for the sake of our country, our freedom, our families, our homes and our rights. We need to defy those who shut us down, gather those who believe in We The People and march on inspite of the government!

      Forrest Gump sparked a craze across America. Perhaps Stephen Ritz can do the same. And the rest of us can follow with whatever we will absolutely not let go!

      Anyway, that's why I said what I said.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Made, I have no doubt that you will find some way...and the reason I have no doubt is because of the person who you are. Kindness and compassion always find a way.

      Thank you my dear friend; I truly do appreciate you for who you are.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      whonunuwho, I can say without a doubt that Ritz inspired me; now hopefully it will work magic on someone else. Thank you and have a great weekend.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LaThing, I hope it inspires someone to do something.....start small....who knows, they just might enjoy it. :)

      Thank you as always and have a great weekend.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Emma, thank you for the visit. I hope it helps your mom and tell her thank you for me for her years of teaching.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, I completely agree....we need people to step up on a local level and make things happen. Waiting for the government to solve our societal issues is a fool's practice....we all need to step up and do it.

      thank you my friend and have a great weekend!

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      DzMsLizzy, I understand what you are saying about the way kids are raised. Fear of failure is crippling in today's society.....sad but true! Thank you so much for sharing and for your great comment.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Patty! This guy deserves all the credit in the world. What he did can be done by any teacher willing to go the extra mile.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sharilee, it really is....I'm glad you enjoyed it and I hope you are inspired for that new teaching job that you will be hired for.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      whonunuwho, thank you for reading. The guy really is quite impressive.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Kelley, thank you! He really is something else; I hope you watched his video at the end of the hub; the guy is a bundle of energy.

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      Madeleine Salin 5 years ago from Finland

      Bill, you keep inspire your readers with your amazing stories. This hub really makes me want to be a better person by helping people with problems. I'm not sure how, but I really want to do something more with my life. Thank you for sharing this.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Julie, that is certainly the hope. Inspiration has a habit of spreading, so I'm hoping this guy and his story will inspire other teachers that they can do the same.

      Thank you and have a great weekend.

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      whonunuwho 5 years ago from United States

      Such an inspirational work and so well prepared. Thank you for sharing what all need to see and hear.

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      LaThing 5 years ago from From a World Within, USA

      Beautiful story, my friend! I had heard about Ritz few years back and I am glad to see he is still going strong. I have volunteered in different states for different organizations and I always here people say that there is nothing for us to do! Yet there is so much to do out there that regular volunteers burn out because they don't have enough help. This is a great article to encourage people to help out the society, as you said our ancestors didn't give up.....

      Voting up and awesome!

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      EmmaHeather 5 years ago

      So inspirational! My mom used to be a special ed teacher, and I'm forwarding this to her. It's amazing what people can do once they commit to an idea. Thanks for a great hub.

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      Amy Becherer 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I grew up, Bill, without a doubt, that I'd make it. Despite inspirational stories of those that continue to succeed, getting the rug pulled out from beneath me, got my attention. I haven't given up, but I'm still winded. Here's an example: For the past YEAR, I've been diligently trying to attain the medication I've taken for 9-years for a debilitating autoimmune disease with Crohn's like symptoms. Now, without a job, no more unemployment and no health insurance, I took up Shire's offer to apply for free or lowered cost Pentasa (normally $600/month). I just faxed my info for the 4th time in a year, as my doctor has not done his part. I called his office and explained AGAIN, my dilemma. The assistant insisted it was too confusing and I had to make an appointment to talk to the doctor. I did and went June 12th of this year. He spent 10-minutes and agreed to send my diagnosis and fill out the form required for compliance by Shire Pharmaceuticals. Today, after not hearing anything further, I called Shire for the status of my application. Because they have received nothing from the doctor, they tossed my application. The doctors appt I had in June cost me $290. Today, I spent another $10 to refax my paperwork, along with the form to the asshole I call my doctor. His assistant called me to say she is putting the info together and will fax it. That remains to be seen. Since no man is an island, I've found one of the most discouraging entities to "just doing it" is the battle to engage those whose help is needed. This task required the prescribing physician's compliance and even paying him isn't enough. This is not a minor inconvenience that I speak of. This prescription medication allows me to have a life. I understand why the "down and out" become discouraged. I know you do, too. Thanks for listening, Bill.

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      Ann Carr 5 years ago from SW England

      Great story! I've always told my students what a great computer they've got in their heads, better than any man-made thing, and that they should use it! You could apply this story, of course, to any part of the world. I can't help but hope that, if everyone kept telling stories like that and if we all keep pushing the ideas of working together, fighting crime, thinking on our feet, etc, then the world should eventually become a better place; maybe it is already but we don't hear enough about it. Thanks for another great read, billy. Voted up etc and shared. Ann

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      Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Awesome! Both programs you describe (his and yours) mirror grand ideas I've had about educational principles. That said, I'd need to be the behind-the-scenes idea person; working directly with kids is not my favorite thing--a lesson learned the hard way when my kids were in Girl Scouts.

      That said, sadly, many kids are raised to avoid hassles and the potential for failure; failure is seen as shameful instead of as a learning experience. I know I was raised that way: stay safe; follow the rules; color inside the lines. It is maddening.

      Thomas Edison failed many times in inventing the lightbulb. He later is reputed to have said something along the lines of, "I did not have 99 failures; I learned about 99 things that do not work." Trying and experimenting, and discovering what works and what does not is a very valuable part of true education--far more valuable than sitting in a classroom reading books, doing homework and taking tests. My father had only an 8th grade education, and was smarter than many college graduates of his day! His education was real-world-based!

      Voted up, interesting, awesome and shared!

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      Patty Kenyon 5 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      WOW!!! Voted UP, Everything , Shared!!! This was truly, truly both inspirational and motivational!!! I love hearing stories about teachers who will do anything they can to help their student grow and at the same time to learn how to help others in their community!! As Usual, AWESOME JOB!!!

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      Sharilee Swaity 5 years ago from Canada

      Bill, just beautiful, just beautiful! What an awesome motivating story. Blessings!

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      whonunuwho 5 years ago from United States

      I'm always glad to hear about a great teacher and what he has done for his kids. Thanks very much for the story.

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      kelleyward 5 years ago

      Hi Bill, Ritz is my definition of a teacher. Someone who uses the tools he has to make the world a better place. What a great experience for his students. Thanks for sharing his journey with us. Voted up and interesting. Take care, Kelley

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      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      Bill, very interesting hub -Ritz is an inspirational guy who will have influenced all of the kids he taught - hopefully they'll pay it forward like he has throughout his life.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh Sha, you just had to throw a wet blanket on it, didn't you? LOL....if the government gets involved then you can count on it getting screwed up.....just sayin'

      Ritz is awesome but what he is doing is not difficult...all the info is out there for any teacher...he just had the willingness to step out of the box.

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      Shauna L Bowling 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Awesome story, Bill! I just love hearing about the good side of human nature. It's heard far too seldom, but it does exist! What this man is doing is phenominal. With the Blue Green Alliance behind them, hopefully the government won't kill their efforts!

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Christy! The guy is a dynamo for sure.

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      Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Stephen Ritz is such a motivator. I am pleased to learn more about him through your hub. I vote up and will share to inspire others too.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Josh, thank you! You are right of course; we all are capable of making change like this. What Ritz did is not hard to do; the information is out there for any teacher to use...what is remarkable is that he actually had the guts and determination to do it. Those qualities are sadly missing in this country.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Mark! The things about what Ritz did...it's nothing new! He did some research, which any of us could do in half an hour, found something that would work in his classroom, and then just did it. It grew from there, as these things usually do. It is not difficult; what is difficult is finding a teacher willing to put in the effort.

      I appreciate you Mark and I love your compassion...we will make change happen.

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      Joshua Zerbini 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Bill,

      That was very motivational! Stephen Ritz seems like an amazing person with a heart of gold! He let and is letting nothing stop him from pursuing the dreams for his students! Now, that is priceless! Your speech on not giving excuses was well heard, and is how I have always tried to live my life! I feel the only way to live is by facing my obstacles head on and having enough willpower, strength and courage to overcome those obstacles. We all have it in us to do exactly what Ritz did. It is just a matter of whether or not we will use what we have.

      Your personal stories as always, inspirational. Thanks for sharing uncle Bill!

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      Mark G Weller 5 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

      Wow Bill, you have done it again, and so has Stephen! I loved that Video and would love to meet him and learn how to bring his plan to California. it's funny (Not Humorous) that I live in the Central Valley of California which produces something like 80% of the nation's produce and we have no programs like this.

      Bravo my friend... Shared every ware!

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, I would hear snide remarks in the teacher's lounge when I was planning one of my "wild hair" lessons....off the wall crazy stuff, something to wake the kids up and make them interested....and the teachers would sit around and ask why I was doing that....sigh.....there are times I think it is hopeless.

      Thanks my friend; you are appreciated!

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      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Positive thinking...about ourselves, what we can do, and what we can do for others! As always Billybuc, you bring positive thinking and success to your hub; both Stephen Ritz and yours!

      I have a very dear friend (now retired) who was often berated for by fellow teachers for going the extra mile, for doing everything she could to make her students learn. She used to say, "if they don't get it, then I'm not teaching it right." Faith in her students and dedication to succeed.

      This hub is a reminder of what we can do if only we do it!

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, you are very welcome! I taught with some very bad teachers, those who were quite satisfied with the status quo. I have no patience with that way of thinking; students deserve our best effort and then some. I know you love teaching....and I feel good when I meet someone like you who really cares.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Carol, I saw his video and had to write about him. I consider myself fairly motivated but Ritz is off the charts.

      Thank you my dear; have a great weekend.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Joseph, there is so much we could all do to make this world better....tough times have forced people to worry just about themselves....and it will only get worse. Oh well, you and I and a few others will do what we can do and see what happens. Thank you!

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love it my friend....just do! Man oh man, we need more motivation like that in the world. I am astonished by the number of people who begin a task already defeated.

      Thank you for the kind words; I feel at times like the lone wolf, howling to a world that cannot or will not hear.

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      Janine Huldie 5 years ago from New York, New York

      Wow, Stephen Ritz's story is truly amazing and again as an educator my hat is off to him for creating a wonderful hands-on project to get his students interested and excited to learn and come to his class, as well as a wonderful way to give back to the community at large. Also loved hearing about your reading program to help under-priviledged youth improve their reading skills. It is educator's like Ritz and yourself that made me what to get into education. Thank you so much for writing about this topic and you gave me a bit of hope and sunshine on a day (during the past week too) that has been a bit hectic and crazy for me. Voted and shared too.

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      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      You always write inspiring hubs. What a creative man and the accomplishments are amazing. Failure is way to easy and taking the path of least resistance is often the way of the world. The biggest benefit of trying all the time is what it does to one personally. And of course all those who may benefit. Just think if everyone worked to achieve just one goal.

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      Joseph De Cross 5 years ago

      Great hopes in your hub! We all can give a part of our intelligence to the world. We are 7.01 Billion of souls. We all can do something for our kids. Even from here. We could offer free time at leas a saturday morning to a cause. Either a class, or an outdoor activity. The trend of despair should stop. We all know how far we can go and ehlp out. We were kids once, and we were lucky. I still remember my history teacher, and my math tutor. We all have our silent heroes...and you are one of them Billy. Thanks for sharing Stephen Ritz with us. The video is powerful indeed.

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      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Mr. Ritz will succeed. There is no doubt. He's not trying to succeed. He's going to succeed!

      One of my hardest sells, in training salespersons throughout the U.S., was to never start anything with the attitude "I'll try." Why? Because trying means your starting something with failure as an option. Don't try...DO! Go do your best and succeed at it. At first, you may not reach the level of success you wish, but you'll get better the more you do it!

      There are two types of people in this world..those that try to those that do! Ask yourself, "Which type am I?" Then go for it!

      Ritz is one that does it! You, my friend, also do it!

      Great read and motivation!