Back to School Teacher Spotlight: Stephen Ritz

August 28th, 2014

It’s not every day you see attendance go from 43% to 93% in the classroom. Stephen Ritz, a teacher in New York’s tough South Bronx district is an inspiration and we’re excited to put the spotlight on this teacher’s unbelievable success is turning around not only his classroom, but uniting a community during this Back to School season.

Teachers have the power to truly motivate their classroom – our future leaders. Ritz was featured in The Guardian and we couldn’t help but take notice.

“Students come to school to take care of their plants – they want to see them succeed. Along the way, the kids succeed too. That’s great, because if I have their bodies in school, I have their brain.” said Stephen Ritz in his interview with The Guardian.

Ritz’s unique tactics also made for a positive outcome in the kids’ lifestyle. In his interview he also explained how most of his students had horrible diets, relied on inexpensive food options and didn’t have access to fresh foods. This changed those circumstances.

“The ability to bring healthy, fresh food into schools and teach children that input equals output is absolutely spectacular. While I started this program with older kids, now I love working with little ones because I can build on good habits instead of trying to fix bad ones.” said Ritz.

Teachers have a responsibility so far-reaching. They can be the reason a kid has the appreciation for what they put in their body and can give their students the tools to make smart, healthy decisions.

Read more about Ritz in the full article and get to know your kids’ teacher this fall. Thank you for all you do, Stephen Ritz!

Stephen Ritz in his created growing space. Photo courtesy of Progressive Photos

Our first event with Aly was a huge success!

December 14th, 2012

As you saw on Monday, the Ask, Listen, Learn team added an exciting new Superstar to our team: Aly Raisman. Today, the 18 year old hosted her very first Ask, Listen, Learn event at Persell Middle School in Jamestown, NY, and boy, was it a success!

The auditorium was packed with 500 kids, grades 5-8, and when Aly got up to challenge Principal Cammarata on our Xavix game, the whole crowd stood up to chant “Aly! Aly! Aly!”

Aly is the oldest of four kids, and she knows she is a role model for many young people. She stressed the fact that she wouldn’t be where she is today if she had made poor decisions in middle school. Exercising, eating healthy foods and choosing the right kind of friends are all important choices that middle schoolers are faced with every day.

A select group of students got the mic to ask Aly about the Olympics and she enthusiastically recalled winning her medals and having fun with her best friends on the US Women’s Gymnastics team. Lucky for her, she’ll be reunited to perform with a few of the US Gymnastics women tomorrow night at theDisson Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular! Be sure to follow our tweets and watch the Spectacular when it airs on NBC January 19!


Ask, Listen, Learn with Debbie Phelps in New York!

June 21st, 2012

June is a busy month for Ask, Listen, Learn!  Earlier in the month we sat down with Debbie Phelps and local DC bloggers.  Yesterday we traveled to New York with Debbie and appeared on TODAY to talk about our Ask, Listen, Learn program and the vital role parents, educators, and coaches play in influencing youth to adopt healthy lifestyles and steer clear of underage drinking.


After our media stops this morning, we hosted a luncheon with NY bloggers where Debbie shared the “speedbumps” she encountered while raising her three kids, and she spoke on how she best dealt with tough situations.  Debbie pointed out no parent or kid is perfect and the best we all can do is try and plant seeds in our kids early in life so they grow to make smart decisions in the future, and should they stray and make poor decisions, that we as parents pause and make sure the moment becomes a teachable one.

Debbie’s perspective is invaluable to our program.  She has raised three successful children and has the unique opportunity to guide middle school students on a daily basis and also engage with caregivers on the important roles they play in directing the paths their kids take.  Debbie emphasized the necessity to look at the entire family unit.  Parents often need to lean on educators, coaches and programs like Ask, Listen, Learn to provide the tools to jumpstart the conversation with youth about the risks of underage drinking.

Educators play a large role in the success of students, but when it comes to underage drinking, 83% of youth ages 10-18 years old, cite parents as the leading influence in their decision to not drink at all, or not to drink on occasion, which is up 28% proportionally from 2003. This places clear emphasis that parents need to make a dedicated effort to talk with their kids about underage drinking as kids truly are listening.  Debbie suggests parents need to stop, slow down, and take time to actually parent their kids and capture the time spent together rather than placing extraordinary emphasis elsewhere.  The Ask, Listen, Learn program provides tools for parents to start these sometime awkward conversations with these kids.

You can read more of Debbie’s story in her book, A Mother For All Seasons.

To read more about the local bloggers we enjoyed the afternoon with today please visit their blogs:

Lastly, we’re off to Omaha today for #SwimTrials12 – follow us at 
@asklistenlearn for live updates from the pool deck!

A busy day on the road with Ask, Listen, Learn

May 22nd, 2012

Today was another busy day for the Ask, Listen, Learn team! We were in Medford, NY with Congressman Tim Bishop at Oregon Middle School at 1:30pm. An hour later (one time zone over) in Centralia, IL, we were with Congressman John Shimkus at Centralia Junior High.

Both events were packed with 6th and 7th graders playing our Xavix game and answering trivia questions about eating right, working out, and the effects of alcohol on growing bodies and minds. We hope these schools will continue to have fun playing the game in their physical education classes and after school.

Always remember to say “YES” to a healthy lifestyle, and “NO” to underage drinking!


Thank you, Strough Middle School!

April 3rd, 2012

This morning, the Ask, Listen, Learn team was in Rome, NY at Lyndon Strough Middle School. We enjoyed talking to the kids with Congressman Richard Hanna and hope you all had fun playing our Xavix game and winning sunglasses and bag giveaways for answering questions about healthy lifestyles.

Thank you to Principal Rourke and all the teachers for hosting us at your school today. And to all the students: keep studying hard, and always remember to say YES to a healthy lifestyle, and NO to underage drinking!


Thank you, Van Wyck Jr. High

March 12th, 2012

The Ask, Listen, Learn team would like to send a special thank you out to Van Wyck Junior High in Wappingers Falls, New York for hosting us on Friday. We hope you enjoyed your time with Congresswoman Nan Hayworth and had fun answering questions and winning prizes along with our interactive Xavix game!

We hope you always remember to say YES to a healthy lifestyle, and NO to underage drinking, and look out for more pictures to be uploaded to our flikr soon!


Apolo Anton Ohno NYC Event Video!

March 12th, 2010

Today, the Ask, Listen, Learn tour will bring Apolo Anton Ohno to his hometown, Seattle. The Ask, Listen, Learn team and Apolo are very excited about this hometown event! As you all know, Apolo has been travelling up a storm to inspire kids all around the country. Seattle will be his fifth stop of the tour. Let’s take a look at his first stop of the tour at Robert Wagner Middle School in New York City – check out the video of the event below!


Apolo Anton Ohno visits Robert Wagner Middle School!

March 4th, 2010

He’s won eight Olympic medals.

He’s the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian in history.

He’s mastered the intense competition of short track speed skating.

He’s the star of the 2010 Winter Games.

But can he withstand 430 hyper sixth-graders?

Today, Apolo Anton Ohno participated in an Ask, Listen, Learn event with The Century Council at Robert Wagner Middle School in New York City. This is part of a nationwide school tour, meant to encourage kids to say ‘YES’ to a healthy lifestyle and ‘NO’ to underage drinking.

“The decisions I made as a young teen heavily influenced where I am today. In fact, many of the decisions I’ve made off-the-ice have contributed most to my success,” said Apolo Anton Ohno. “I truly believe that healthy habits and positive choices start at childhood which is why I’m proud to establish my own Foundation and work with The Century Council to spread healthy messages, including “say no” to underage drinking, to kids across the country.”

Apolo’s nationwide tour will continue. Next is an appearance Saturday morning at Greenwood Athletic Club in Greenwood Village, CO, outside of Denver.

Check out coverage of the event here!


Ask, Listen, Learn Team Visits the National Soccer Hall of Fame

September 27th, 2008

The Ask, Listen, Learn team visits the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, New York.

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