Friday, April 30, 2010

Union Settlement Association: Providing Opportunities for East Harlem Residents

Hi everyone,
Here I am with WNBC anchor and reporter Morgan DeMarco and Union Settlement Association’s executive director David Nocenti at Union Settlement’s annual Solutions Benefit. What an honor.
Union Settlement Association has served East Harlem’s immigrant community for 115 years, and now reaches more than 13,000 people each year with programs in education, childcare, youth development, senior services, job training, the arts, nutrition, counseling, and community development. The Settlement also holds blood drives and conferences to benefit all of East Harlem’s citizens.
Learn more about Union Settlement Association at their website.
This is my second year working with Union Settlement: earlier this year, we did a short film that featured their Day of the Dead celebration.
Please consider supporting USA, either by donating or volunteering your time.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation: No More Pizza, Burgers, and Nuggets for Our Kids!

Hi everyone,

A new survey commissioned by W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which consulted over 800 adults from across the country, found that nearly two-thirds of parents of school-age children describe local school food as “poor” or “only fair.” They insist that pizza, chicken nuggets, French fries, tater tots, hot dogs, and hamburgers, should be cut drastically from school menus.

More than 85 percent said fresh fruit and vegetables should be offered every day in school cafeterias. Asked about factors contributing to the obesity epidemic, 71 percent listed cutbacks in recess and physical education as a significant factor. Eighty-six percent recommend requiring 60 minutes of exercise in the school day.

You can read the full article here.

It’s time to take action!


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lone Star State of Mind

Hi everyone,

Today I met with David “The Admiral” Robinson of the Antonio Spurs. A generous humanitarian for decades, David and his wife Valerie opened the Carver Academy, a non-profit private school in San-Antonio Texas with a socio-economically a culturally diverse K-6 student body, in 2001. The academy provides some fantastic, unusual opportunities for all of its students, such as ballet lessons and broadcasting/recording education. Each of the 120 students is also required to learn three foreign languages: Japanese, German, and Spanish.

Over the past nine years, the school has produced a multitude of well-rounded alumni, and continues to promote leadership, discipline, initiative, and integrity. The stylish Mr. Robinson kindly posed for this picture.

Read a New York Times article on the Carver Academy here

Since most of the schools students are attending on scholarship, it is imperative that the school receive supplemental funding to continue operating. Please consider donating to this terrific institution.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Morocco: Making a Difference

Hi everyone,

As most of you know, I spent last week in Morocco, an Arab country situated on the Northwestern tip of Africa. Moroccans often refer to it as a crossroads between Europe and the Middle East.

As a board member for Earth Day Network, I learned about Morocco’s unique commitment to environmental issues over the past year. The more I learned, the more I was inspired. As Morocco’s movement progressed, I recognized that something extraordinary was happening and that the country’s efforts merited special attention.

In late 2009, Earth Day Network unanimously selected Rabat (Morocco’s capital), along with Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Kolkata, Washington D.C., and New York, to be a partner in Earth Day’s 40th Anniversary celebration. It would be the first time an Arab nation would host this world event, and be credited for its cutting-edge series of projects for environmental conservation.

"Rabat was chosen as a premier city to host Earth Day Celebrations for its commitment to the environment and strategic vision for the future,” said Gerald Torres, Chairman of Earth Day Network.

Earth Day board members and staff could have attended any one of the major events around the world. We were solicited to appear at more than one event, which would have incurred a host of travel appointments and scheduling conflicts.

We chose to come to Morocco and stay for the four-day celebration because of the uniqueness of the country’s commitment; Morocco has become a leader in environmental issues in a part of the world where the environment is often low on the agenda.

Shortly after our arrival in Casablanca, we drove to Rabat and saw some of the most green, lush, and open farmlands we could remember.

We saw miles of trees, parks, and forests. Naturally, my initial impression was that Morocco had no environmental problems at all. But, like every part of the world, the country is confronted with alarming challenges.

Farmers are experiencing the effects of climate change. Their crops are becoming scarcer and taking longer to grow.

Along the country’s beautiful Atlantic coastline, fishermen are reeling in fewer fish than they used to due to increasing air and water pollution.

There are other environmental issues that aren’t unique to Morocco. What is unique is about Morocco is that they are doing something about it. During Earth Day’s 40th Anniversary, the Moroccan government announced a multi-billion dollar series of projects aimed at improving the environment.

New restrictions and standards, as well as a “green tax” for violators, will be implemented for the first time.

The plan also includes a large investment in clean transportation, solar energy, and wind power. Most importantly, there will be a major emphasis on education.

I visited a school which emphasizes environmental responsibility in its curriculum, proof that the message is reaching a younger generation.

"We must manage to mobilize the youth so that we can preserve the environment for generations to come,” insisted Rabat Mayor Fathallah Oulaelou.

The environment and the economy are more intimately linked in Morocco than in most places.

At least 40% of its inhabitants survive off of the fishing industry. Millions of other Moroccans make a living in the tourism and hospitality industries.

The country has little choice but to be progressive on environmental issues, and they are doing it.

I know that, upon my return, people will ask if the Moroccan government will be able to deliver on its promises. After what we have seen here, we sincerely believe that Morocco is serious and committed.

Happy Earth Day to all, not just this week, but all year round.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Green Schools Earth Fair

Hi everyone,
I spent Earth Day at the Green Schools Earth Fair in Rabat. Every child at the local “green school” was involved in the Earth Day celebration, from the kindergarteners to the high-schoolers. Their curriculum covers sustainability, water purification, wind and solar power. But these kids don’t just study the environment—they also work to preserve it. They plant trees at and around their school as well as clean up local neighborhoods and beaches. It was a joy to work with these kids, as well as meet President Hassan and Governor Haoudi. We even planted a tree in my honor! Lucky me.
I hope you all had a productive, reflective Earth Day, too.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Greetings from Morocco

Hi everyone,
I’m reporting live from Morocco for Earth Day’s 40th Anniversary. Here’s a picture of me helping plant a tree for a new park across the street from the King’s palace in the capital Rabat.
Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Hasnaa has initiated a program for awareness and shared responsibility, involving all potential stake holders for change, under the banner "All for the Environment." The approach is built upon three pillars: shared commitment, a strategy for sustainable development, and youth education.
The Eco-Schools program aims to teach children that natural resources are scarce, invaluable, and must be protected. In the program, students concentrate on three primary topics: water, energy, and waste. In addition to planting trees, the students use the knowledge they acquire to organize an awareness campaign on national water management and clean-up campaigns in neighboring beaches, visiting ecological sites and water-treatment plants.
The kids who accompanied me on this dig were from a local fifth grade class. We had a blast.
More updates on the way.

Monday, April 19, 2010

David Dinkins

It was an honor to have spent some time getting to know Mayor Dinkins last week. His actions and values are consistent with those promoted by Coro. In his three years in office he made great strides in human rights efforts as an outspoken advocate for the elimination of apartheid, and stood up for student rights by instituting the office of Special Commissioner of Investigations for schools and creating a system of after school youth centers.

Our interview was part of an upcoming film for CORO New York. CORO is recognized by the leaders of New York as a great organization for the people of New York.

Earth Day Event at Vanderbilt Hall

On Tuesday, there will be a special screening of LUNCH for Earth Day's 40th Anniversary. LUNCH will be shown at Grand Central Terminal's historical Vanderbilt Hall, April 20th, at 6:00 pm. Bring your friends and family!


Sunday, April 18, 2010

My Day with Majora Carter

Hi everyone,
Earlier this week, I had the fortune to meet Majora Carter, President of the Majora Carter group. Majora is an advocate for environmental justice whose work has focused specifically on the Bronx, where she grew up. Over the past two decades, she’s managed to secure millions to make polluted, urban spaces greener, safer places to play and live. A Coro alumnus, Majora is a testament to the effectiveness of the foundation’s Leadership New York XI program. As an Earth Day board member, I was especially honored to meet Majora. If you have a chance to see her or hear her speak, take it. She’s amazing.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Interview with Ed Koch Coro's New York Short Film Series 2010

Hi everyone, Avis here,

Today, I'm heading downtown to interview iconic Mayor Ed Koch for Coro New York's annual short film series. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Coro, it's a fantastic nonprofit organization. Its nationwide programs help train over 1,000 individuals each year to be effective leaders at the local, national, and global levels. It has spawned thousands of successful alumni, some of whom will be featured in the film series.

You can learn more about Coro New York Leadership Center and its strategic four-year plan here [], and keep an eye out for the film.