Waverly here! Kids like me have so much to think about, especially these days.  Lately I have become more worried about how we are treating our planet, and about how we are not really thinking about how all across the world, our decisions affect our futures.  I’ve been talking to my mom about it, so when she saw an email from The NYC DOE Office of Sustainability to nominate a student to write with professional mentors and to perform their sustainability-inspired piece at the  rFUTURE show at Lincoln Center, she knew JUST who to nominate – yep, ME!  I sure was happy when she told me that I was one of the students chosen to participate. I was also super excited to use my voice and my writing to try to inspire people to think about their actions and their decisions and how we can all work together to save our future. Even though we can’t perform at Lincoln Center, the good news is that now EVERYONE (even you!) can watch this amazing show as it’s streamed live on Thursday, May 28th from 6 – 8 P.M.  I hope you join us so we can ALL take charge of rFUTURE! **Psst…Read on for some VERY EXCITING NEWS!!**  RSVP on Facebook here!

I am just one tiny part of the event.  I’m honored to have been chosen along with these incredibly talented students, (who worked with awesome professional mentors) and can’t wait for everyone to hear what we have been working on for the last few months!




Music Mentor

In-Tech Academy

Emely Polanco

Antonio Iandolo

Leyla Blue

Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts

Freeman Bradley

Naima Moffett-Warden

Jade Zaroff

MESA Charter High School

Victor Richardson and Brandon Custodio

Francis Haggerty

Tem Blessed & Cita-Light

William Cullen Bryant High School

Claire Efa and Jasmine Rivera

George Weisman

Out of System Transfer (Jesse/Danielle)*

Hudson High School of Learning Technologies

Rian Eugene

Rob McMahon

Taina Asili & Gaetano Vaccaro


Yorkville East Middle School

Waverly Winchester

Denise Winchester


Credit: Mia Isabella Photography

Like I said, I’m just one tiny part of this important event!  The whole thing was started by the NYC DOE’s Office of Sustainability.  I interviewed Christina Langone, Sustainability Specialist at the NYC Department of Education to find out more about who they are and what they do:

What is the Office of Sustainability’s Role within the NYC Department of Education?

The Office of Sustainability authentically works with all school stakeholders (students, custodial staff, admin, teachers, etc.) to implement or enhance sustainable systems in NYC public school buildings and classrooms. We do this through informal education, central trainings, infrastructure improvements, grants, site visits, resource creation, and much more. Every school has a member of our team assigned to it, so if anyone ever needs help with sustainability in their schools please contact us at sustainability@schools.nyc.gov and we would be thrilled to connect!

What are some everyday ways that students can help the environment, either at home or at school?

The best way to help the environment is to talk to someone about it! Share your passion, connect to people, and spread awareness far and wide. Simple first steps? Try setting up a recycling station in your home, gather up some gloves and a bag and do a community clean-up day, or talk to your guardians about turning all the lights off when you leave your room. At school you should try to join or start a Green Team with your friends and some teachers. This is a fun way to get projects done at your school and make a difference! For more ideas, please see our Resource Portal at bit.ly/NYCDOESustainability

Please finish this sentence:  It’s important for schools to incorporate sustainability practices because schools are where we learn the values, knowledge, and passion that will guide us for our whole lives. If we want everyone to consider sustainability as an important part of their lives it is crucial to start learning about this at a young age.  

The Office of Sustainability worked with  Clean Green Music Machine
to find the right students and develop their talents so we could all present our best messages and performances on the night of the show. 
Bonnie Milner, Co-Founder and Executive Director, was so awesome to work with and helped me with every aspect of my spoken word piece.  Thank you, Bonnie!! Here is some more info about Clean Green Music Machine:

 Tell us about Clean Green Music Machine – how did it start?

Clean Green Music Machine started with its founder, Mark Files Schwaller’s band Melodeego. They are environmental activist artists and did their shows powered by bicycle powered clean energy. They decided they wanted to develop a program to teach kids about how their bike system works and the benefits of clean energy. I was Melodeego’s manager and I have a long history working with kids and their communities to use music as way to communicate and share stories. The band ultimately broke up but Mark and I continued on with the work and here we are today!

What are its goals and how do you go about accomplishing them?

Our goal is to use music and entertainment to inspire, activate and activate young people to lead us to a just and sustainable environment for life on the planet. We know that young people have clarity and wisdom and after all, we’re handing them a big mess, the least we can do is support them while they work to fix it! We want to give them megaphones and platforms where they can teach the rest of us. For younger kids, we create programs like Turn It Up! that activate their thinking with information and questions. For older kids, we work on programs like rFUTURE that give young people tools to share their views artistically.

How can music inspire us to create a sustainable environment like nothing else can?

From the beginning of time, music has been a huge catalyst for societal change. This is because music reaches parts of the brain that can accept new things and remember them. Also, music is not threatening and it is enjoyable. It is the best ever spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down!

Please tell us a little bit, specifically, about rFUTURE and how it helps young people (like me!) get their visions and voices seen and heard.

rFUTURE is a good opportunity for student artist activists to be heard in ways that lots people can hear. The songs and spoken word pieces are professionally developed and produced in partnership with some amazing mentor artists. Then, they are shared in a show that is heavily promoted and super entertaining. This gives the voices amplification in a big way. One thing that is also important is that it blends music with video vignettes that allow viewers to really get to know the artists and their mentors. This relationship helps build an ongoing platform. The videos are produced by students from the Tech Squad at TAPCo, an amazing school in the Bronx. Music and video are inextricably linked, together they get through the hardest hearts, together they inspire change.

Credit: Mia Isabella Photography

The Theater Arts Production Company School (aka TAPCo) was another important part in putting together this amazing production.  Check out some of their work: https://vimeo.com/61991847   Here’s some info about this awesome school from Steven Mudrick, Director of Multi-media Production.  

TAPCo is a very interesting and unique school.  What would you say sets you apart from other schools in the NYC area?

This year marks my 17th year at TAPCo.  Before joining I ran a small video production company.  TAPCo has been the only school I have ever worked for.   My original plan was to teach in this school for 2 or 3 years, get tenure and experience, and then move to a school that was closer to my home.

I never left.

Part of the reason was that I fell in love with the school, the community, and most of all, the kids.  But it was what set TAPCo apart from other NYC schools that really made me want to stay.

TAPCo is a school with a big heart.  It is staffed by teachers, administrators, and staff members that truly care about the kids.  Not in a PR or showy way, but in a way that only comes when you truly love what you do and the people you work for and with.  Our staff constantly goes the extra yard, wearing many hats, working with very little funding and support in what seems like endless work against what feels sometimes like insurmountable odds.  Most do it with passion, and a strong social conscience.  We want to BE good, not just LOOK good.  And our principal has a vision and a direction, whose overall motivation is to improve the lives of our students.  That’s the bottom line.  To be honest, I hope that TAPCo is the only  school I ever work for.  I want to retire someday saying this was the only school I ever had.


Blending the arts, technology and academics is also what, I feel, makes us unique.  All of these pursuits are important, and they feed off each other.  We recognize how important it is for a student to be exposed to all of these things to develop fully as a human being.  They go hand-in-hand.  And because of it I think a student who comes to TAPCo has a better chance in finding something they are good at, which helps them develop self-esteem, confidence, and often an ability they can build a career (and life) on.

What was TAPCo‘s role in helping the rFUTURE student performers showcase their work?

TAPCo played a dual role in the rFUTURE project.  One was we hosted the meet/greet/create event (not the official name of that day… but one I like).  On this day 5 student/student groups assembled at TAPCo, met a mentor(s) from the music industry, and broke out to work on an original composition related to sustainability and the environment.  In this way we worked closely with the Clean Green Music Machine and the NYCDOE Office of Sustainability to serve as the event organizer for the day.

Our other role was to document the event by creating 5 video production teams that consisted of 4 students each, 2 from our high school paired with 2 from our middle school.  The kids from the MS came directly from my middle school technology squad (which serves as a kind of school HELP DESK to fix technology and support our students and staff in matters related to technology).  The students from the HS were a mix of past MS tech squad students and students who showed an interest in multi-media production.  Each team stuck with one group from the beginning to the end of the day, documenting everything.

After the shoot, the footage was turned over to high school students to edit.  We also brought back one graduate from our program to handle one of the edits.

The task of editing was daunting.  Some of the students were taking on the task with only a little experience.  (Unfortunately we had to put their work on hold when the quarantine situation took hold as the student did not have the proper hardware at home to finish virtually… so the edits were completed by one of the students who graduated our school and a graduate student who worked in our school).  I supervised all 5 edits.  We tried out best to replicate the edit that our HS students began, and consulted with them throughout the process.

NOTE:  The reason I shared the past TAPCo videos with you was to show you some of the work our school has produced over the years.  We are now facing major cuts in our arts funding, and it is our hope that we can resurrect our video/multi-media program so that we can continue to create this level of work and provide the experiences that go with that to our students.

Credit: Mia Isabella Photography

And now for some VERY EXCITING NEWS! The show is being hosted by  XIUHTEZCATL MARTINEZ!  Xiuhtezcatl (shoo-TEZ-caht) is a 20-year old climate activist and hip-hop artist who has been on the forefront of climate change advocacy since he was six! As a teenager, Xiuhtezcatl gave three TED talks and was invited to speak before the United Nations on environmental policy. He has done collaborations with Willow and Jaden Smith and is currently the youth director of Earth Guardians.  His album Break Free is filled with messages of indigenous resistance, resilience, and the power of youth.  He is also performing – how exciting is that??


Tune in on Thursday, May 28th at 6:00pm to see and hear the next generation of musical change-makers – and me!! –  from a hard hit city.

 https://www.rfutureshow.com/livestream   And remember…

Credit: Mia Isabella Photography

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