Maria La Torre

Daily Point of Light # 3819 Sep 23, 2008

Maria La Torre has focused her volunteer efforts in the GE focus areas of Education and the Environment.

Maria developed/organized weekly hands-on 4th grade science lessons to support classroom curriculum & NYS teaching standards for the Yates Elementary School “Hands on Science” program. She recruited GE teams to execute lessons throughout the year & run a year-end Great Yates Science Fair. Within a few years, the inner-city school went from being on NY’s list of Schools Needing Improvement to the list of Rapidly Improving Schools. Large gains in science scores & aptitude were evident. In her 6th year of running the program, Maria successfully transitioned leadership to a co-worker so she could focus on new education initiatives. Because of the outstanding foundation Maria built, the program continues to thrive.

Maria led a GE Volunteers initiative to put on science demonstrations for hundreds of students (& parents) at the NY State Museum for National Chemistry Week. She developed demonstrations, recruited volunteer teams, & after 2 successful years, transitioned leadership to a GE colleague who continues to run the program today

Maria is a founder & key volunteer leader for a GRC environmental group called “we c…green” which “promotes environmental awareness & facilitates change in our community & workplace.”

Within GE, Maria also has made a significant environmental impact through her volunteer leadership & drive. Maria works with the on-site food & lodging service to reduce waste and conserve energy from GE’s cafeteria & on-site hotel, the Lodge. In the last year, they began recycling bottles/cans from catering operations, switched to re-useable silverware & dishes (preventing nearly 350,000 plastic utensils from entering landfills), & replaced 119,000 Styrofoam plates with biodegradable ones. They also implemented a voluntary Lodge program to reduce laundering of guest linens, reducing water, electricity, & detergent usage. Across GRC, Maria is responsible for collecting more than 630 used sneakers that would have gone to landfills, & instead have been reclaimed for playground material.

Maria is truly a person with heart. Whether it's inspiring students or assuring the most fragile butterfly has a habitat to call home, her passion for education and the environment resonates in the innovative programs she has developed for students and the community such as the “Hands on Science” program and Great Yates Science Fair. An extraordinary leader, Maria gives a tremendous amount of her time and talent to the programs she supports. Her impact is evident in the students' improved science and aptitude scores.

Maria feels she has learned from her students as well. “They have taught me many lessons, far more than I have taught them,” says Maria, “They have taught me about perseverance and survival.”