We Leave It Better:

  1. 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. 
  2. We leave each other better. We believe that people who have enough sleep, eat healthy food, and exercise are in a better frame of mind to create healthy relationships. We believe that different generations can learn from each other. We believe that the students doing the work are more important than the work itself. 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.
  3. We leave communities better. We believe healthy schools create healthy communities, with youth and schools being the driving force for good in a place. This means thriving environmental, economic and social growth.
  4. We leave the world better. We believe that healthy communities are the basis of healthy ecosystems. Healthy communities understand that humans are a part — albeit a small part— of the global community. Once the self, the friend, the organization, and the community are healthy, they can impact the world around them. We are the world. We understand our interconnectedness.


  • Sarah Hamed- Director of Operations
    • While working on her B.A. in Psychology, Sarah decided to seek opportunities in the education field, which inspired her work with Leave It Better Foundation. 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. Along with her love for the arts, 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
    • Humbled by the opportunity to be a part of Leave It Better. Inspired each day by the principles. Leave myself better by going on a long walk in the woods. Leave other people better through deeply listening to the words and emotions being communicated. Leave our organization better by focusing on the most necessary tasks. Leave our community better through buying food from local farmers. Leave the world better by empowering youth to heal.
  • Makena Mugambi- Communications Coordinator
    • Makena developed a profound appreciation for the environment through her early exposure to untouched landscapes in her home country, Kenya. She believes that when youth deepen their engagement with the human and natural entities in their environment, they are able to better recognize and act on the needs of their community and the world. Through Leave It Better, she hopes to champion an ethic of care that spreads outward from the individual to the world.

2018-2019 ReGeneration Team

Angela Scafidi

Angela Scafidi is a sophomore at NYU majoring in Environmental Studies and Romance Languages. She believes that education is the most important and most practical way of tackling environmental issues. Leave It Better’s core principles are values she strongly believes in, and she is very excited to both assist in teaching these values while learning from the students as well.

Claire Kleinman

Claire is an artist and filmmaker completing her final semester at the Cooper Union, she was born and raised in New York City. Despite growing up around concrete she has developed a deep appreciation for plants. Claire is exciting to be a ReGeneration Corps intern with LIBF this spring because she believes we have a lot to learn from children, and that children can learn a lot from nurturing their bond with the natural world.


Briana Black

Briana’s with Leave it Better is a unique one. When she was in middle school at age 11, she got the pleasure to work with Graham, founder of Leave it Better. They worked side by side doing hands on work to restore a neighborhood park in my community. They planted foods and plants behind my school and she learned the process of growing something. Growing up the concept of growing and eating her own food was foreign to Briana. She knew vegetables and fruits came from the supermarket, but never really put much thought to how they got there. Working with Graham gave her insight on gardening and planting her own food and plants. It gave her a sense of pride to be involved in my community and it gave her a sense of self as a budding activist.

Joanna E. Caravantes

Joanna Caravantes is a third-year undergraduate at New York University majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies. She grew up in a low-income household on Long Island and found a lot of peace and tranquility with the ocean that was nearby. She found my passion and love for the environment as it helped her persevere and now, She wants to help it as it continues to help me. She believes that through education She can also inspire students to persevere and be the role model she never had. By inspiring and helping students first, she hopes they can gain the confidence to make a difference.

Katherine Facchini

Kat is a college student living in Brooklyn, pursuing a degree in environmental political communication and environmental literature. She is passionate about environmental education and has previously worked to bring gardening education to differently abled adults. When she’s not working, Kat spends her time working in different visual art mediums and loves to cook!

Krystle A. Bell

Krystle presently is a second-year graduate student at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, NY pursuing dual degrees; a Master of Science in International Development and Service and a Master of Business Administration. Her focus is in coastal ecosystem conservation and coastal community prosperity. Krystle is an individual who thrives in environments where she can be of service to others; to a cause in which the goal is to ensure a better future. She joined the Leave It Better team because of the opportunity to gain intercultural experience as well as build professional networks, that would allow her to pursue a meaningful career combating social and environmental injustices.

Board Members

  • Sharlene Aquiler
    • Students in Sharlene’s 2nd grade class were one of the first to benefit from the Leave it Better Regeneration Program back in 2010. She was a public school teacher for 10 years in the Bay Area and New York City, and received her M.A. in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University. Sharlene was a Lead Educator for LIBF before becoming an Instructor at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Since moving back to California, she has been involved with the San Francisco Botanical Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers, Alemany Farm and Ninunong Gamot (Philippine Ancestral Medicine). Sharlene is now the Program Manager of Youth and Outreach at Garden for the Environment in San Francisco.
  • Jannely Almonte Ortiz
    • As a Bronx native who attended boarding school in New Jersey, and currently teaches Spanish at Riverdale Country School, Jannely brings a wide range of experiences as a student and educator. Jannely believes in helping young people see the world with a new set of eyes. With a B.A,  in Cultural Anthropology from Columbia University and an M.A in Teaching of Foreign Languages from the School for International Training, she has grown to understand the transformative power of learning about other people’s stories to better tell our own.In her personal life, she enjoys gardening, running, and bringing mindfulness into all aspects of her life with her family.
  • Graham Meriwether- See staff bio above.
  • Karl Rosaen
    • 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- Vice President
    • 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-
    • Susan Yao is the Middle School Head at Friends Academy. 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.
  • Monique Paul
    • Monique works for Miami Waterkeeper where she combats water quality issues that face Miami-Dade County and ensure that the people that live there have access to swimmable, drinkable, and fishable water. She grew up in Rockland County, New York and graduated from New York University with a Bacherlor’s in Environmental Studies and a minor in Psychology. She just recently graduated from University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) with a Master’s in Marine Conservation. For her Master’s thesis, Monique developed a fertilizer ordinance focused on environmental conditions and threats to South Florida’s waterways. The ordinance regulates the use of fertilizer by any applicator. It specifies appropriate application rates, application practices, and prohibited application periods. She was recently the recipient of the RSMAS MPS Student Award for Excellence in Ocean Stewardship for her work with Miami Waterkeeper. Since high school, Monique has loved learning about marine ecology and hopes to continue working to protect water resources for people and ensure the health of marine ecosystems.
  • Cary Weiss
    • Cary is a former member of the ReGeneration Corps, which he joined in 2010 while studying Biology and Environmental Studies at New York University. Cary is currently pursuing a joint MD/PhD degree at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY, and is planning to begin his residency in Pediatrics next year, upon completion of his degrees. The practice of Pediatrics includes encouraging the establishment of healthy habits at a young age, including behaviors that support physical, mental, emotional and relational health, and promoting education—that is where Cary’s values align so closely with Leave It Better’s.
  • Sarah Hamed- See staff bio above.
  • Makena Mugambi- See staff bio above.

Advisory Board

  • 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.
  • Ursula Chanse
    • 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.
  • Meredith Danberg-Ficarelli
    • 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 Darnton
    • 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.
  • Andrew Hoyles
    • 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.
  • Dax Ponce de Leon
    • 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.



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