We leave ourselves better. We strive to slow down, create a moment of time and space to breathe and smile. We are realistic and honest in assessing our impact, goals, outcomes, and adherence to principles. We see falling short as an opportunity to learn more, to start an engaging conversation. We take ownership of our own health, we choose healthy food to eat. We take ownership of our thoughts, our words and our actions. We choose to make ourselves healthier each day.
We leave each other better. We bring diverse educational approaches including hands-on activities, environmental education, STEAM projects, gardening, and mindfulness to create a space where everyone can contribute according to their abilities. We create healthy relationships. We believe that different generations can learn from each other.
We leave schools better. We believe that students are the stewards of change in their communities, influencing their families and peers; We believe that the students doing the work are more important than the work itself.
We help kids to tell stories better. We strive to exist at the intersection of technology, the environment and storytelling. Technology is used only when it truly enhances, not for tech sake, and not as a distraction. We tell complete stories, beautiful and ugly. We empower students to tell their own stories.
We leave the world better. We understand our interconnectedness with the environment and our place in nature by being compassionate, being educated, and finding solutions.
Sarah Hamed- Director of Operations
Sarah is currently a college student who shares a passion for education. She firmly believes the right education is the root to all success, and uses teaching platforms to introduce better, modern, and more colorful approaches to learning. Sarah has also found a healing connection to nature, and is inspired to introduce mindfulness into the education of others.
Ilana Lucas – Lead Educator PS 306, MS 331 & Dos Puentes
Born and raised in the Bronx, Sociology major Ilana Lucas is dedicated to facilitating the connection between multidimensional health and active citizenship in her community. She believes that exploring nature is a core factor of self-esteem and that by bridging such abstract concepts of health with more practical concepts such as sustainability, marginalized communities can rebuild themselves with sensible norms that have lasting and cherished effects.
Graham Meriwether- Director
Graham founded Leave It Better Foundation in 2009 with the belief that youth are the key to healing our environment. Youth’s innate optimism and keen sense of what truly matters are the perfect combination to lead the green movement across the world. Graham is also a documentary journalist who directed the feature films American Meat (2013) and the newly released Farmers For America, both focused on America’s agriculture. Graham lives with wife Susan, son Abraham and daughter Maya Lou in NYC.
Makena Mugambi- Communications Coordinator
Makena is a second-year undergraduate at NYU, who developed a profound appreciation for the environment through her early exposure to the natural world in her home country, Kenya. She is committed to sharing her love for the environment with youth by presenting the seemingly dismal environmental narrative in a refreshingly positive light. As the communications coordinator for LIBF, she hopes to foster environmental consciousness among youth and inspire them to look and work towards a greener future.
Saba Riazi- Lead Educator
Born and raised in Tehran, Saba Riazi is currently pursuing her MFA in creative writing at CUNY’s Queens College. Prior to writing Saba received her MFA in Film Production at New York University. Saba is passionate about teaching an how education especially in early years both in creative fields and food realm can bring about fundamental change towards a better life.
Dr. James Boyer
James is a botanist and educator at The New York Botanical Garden. He currently holds the position of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Vice President of Education, responsible for overseeing all student, teen, teacher, and family programs at the Garden.
Meredith Danberg-Ficarelli is a green business entrepreneur with a BA in Anthropology from the University of Virginia, and an MS in Urban Policy Analysis and Sustainability Management from the New School. In 2012 she concepted, co-founded, and managed FERN [Food Establishments Recycling Nutrients], and after returning from Beirut, she worked at the Lower East Side Ecology Center. Meredith joined Common Ground Compost in October 2015, where she now runs a Zero Waste consulting operation, in addition to a bicycle-powered compost collection program called Reclaimed Organics. A lover of cities and maker of things, Meredith builds upcycled home decor, crochets with plastic bags, and finds nothing more satisfying than seeing well-sorted waste stations.
Ryan is a multidisciplinary environmental consultant with over seven years of combined experience as a biologist, engineer and attorney working on issues related to water quality, water treatment, hydrology, hydrodynamics, sediment and aquatic ecosystems.
Graham Meriwether- President and treasurer
See staff bio above.
Dax Ponce de Leon- Vice president
Dax, LEED AP BD+C, PMP serves as the Chief Knowledge Officer at PMA Consultants, LLC. Mr. de Leon leads PMA’s Knowledge Management Program, an effort to maximize the value obtained from PMA’s collectively accrued insights, experiences, and expertise. He creates company-wide, cross-functional initiatives to grow and share knowledge for the mutual benefit of clients, employees, and the organization.
Karl is the Co-Founder of Real Time Farms, LLC. Mr. Rosaen previously served as Vice President of Technology at Food52, Inc. where has served as both lead project manager and lead engineer.
Tommy Sheridan works at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), providing support to international teams working on Conservation Innovations, International Policy, Species, Strategic Technology, and Training and Capacity Building. Tommy is a native New Yorker from Rockland County. He graduated from New York University with a dual-bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and Urban Design & Architecture, as well as a minor in Psychology. His passion for environmental science has previously landed him in the public, private, non-profit, and academic sectors of New York City with NYU’s Marron Institute for Urban Management, The Lowline, NYC Parks & Recreation, Leave It Better, and Structure Tone, Inc. He loves working outdoors, learning with children, and truly believes that if we want to change the world, kids are the most powerful way to do so.
Makini Velazquez- Secretary
Makini has taught English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) in New York City, to students with special needs, for eight years. In 2012, she has transitioned to working as an English Language Learner Coach, providing instructional support to ESL and bilingual education teachers serving students with disabilities in grades K-12.
Susan Yao is a middle school Social Studies teacher and curriculum coordinator at St. Luke’s School in NYC. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from Harvard College and a Master’s in School Leadership from Bank Street College. She has taught in public, charter, and private schools over the last nine years. Her curricular interests include cultural competence, civic engagement, and outdoor education. As a parent, she loves bringing her children to farms and parks around the US. Her mission is to train children to be (better) stewards of the earth.
Ursula Chanse is the Director of Bronx Green-Up and Community Horticulture at The New York Botanical Garden. Since 2005, she has managed Bronx Green-Up, the community gardening outreach program of The New York Botanical Garden, which provides horticulture education, training, and technical assistance to Bronx residents, community gardeners, urban farmers, local schools, and community organizations.
Andrew hails from the Great Lake State of Michigan where his love for the natural environment blossomed. Andrew joined the Ecology Center team in 2009 as the Compost Instructor for the New York City Compost Project hosted at the Ecology Center and left in 2015 to join the Department of Sanitation’s Bureau of Recycling and Sustainability, rolling out organic waste collection city-wide.