Special Update

In response to the ongoing health crisis, all currently running ASTEP programs have been suspended until April 20, 2020. We will continue monitoring, communicating with partners, and adjusting the schedule accordingly. We are taking this time to provide additional professional development webinars for our network of Volunteer Teaching Artists, so that we can put our best foot forward when we are able to resume programming. Thank you for being an important part of the ASTEP family, and for your ongoing support and dedication to the communities we serve.

– Your friends at ASTEP



Getting to Know Our New Programs Manager, Monique Letamendi!

Please join us in extending a very warm welcome to our new Programs Manager, Monique “Mo” Letamendi! We are thrilled to have Mo as Part of the ASTEP family!

Learn more about Mo in the interview below:

Where did you grow up? 
I was born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Brooklyn is so much of me and so important to me, because it really molded me into the person I am today. 

Where did you work before joining the ASTEP team?
I have been in the teaching artist realm for a while now, but before I started at ASTEP, I was (and continue to be!) a contracted Program Director with viBe Theater Experience, facilitating workshops with high school girls creating original, full-length albums and plays. 
Have you been onsite with any ASTEP programs? Which ones?
I have been to a couple of sites with ASTEP, but BY FAR my favorite has been with the youth online essay writer at ICC as well as our WIN site in Flatbush. 
Did you have a background in the arts or teaching, when you started?
Before starting at ASTEP, I had been teaching with viBe Theater for about 6 years, and was a mentor/counselor/advocate for youth since I was 19 years old. It started with advocating and creating events for youth with Make The Road in Bushwick, mentoring youth affected by homelessness with Sankofa Empowerment and teaching poetry to fellow colleagues in college for groceries. 
What is the most challenging part of your work?
The most challenging part of my job is learning how to manage my time efficiently, as well as getting used to the newness of my position. With being on the field so often, this is very different from what I’m used to, but I am finding it exciting to explore and learn all these new things!
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part of my work is connecting with the volunteers and the youth we serve. Nothing brings me more joy than being at our sites, and just learning from our youth, or watching a volunteer really lean on their expertise and experiences. I think the beauty of what we do is in those moments where you can visibly see someone stretch a new muscle, or try something new and actually enjoy what they discover and come back again…it’s a fulfilling experience to be able to delegate and contribute to that process. 
What do you look forward to, each day, working at ASTEP?
Being in the office with folks that are as passionate about this work as I am! I am so impressed and inspired by how much work we all do and offer to be sure who we are serving and our volunteers are getting the best that we can give. 
What song best encapsulates your working personality? 
I think that the song that encapsulates my working personality is ELECTRIC LADY, by Janelle Monae! It is energetic, cheerful, funky, grounding and empowering! I think that this song motivates me to be the best Electric Lady I can be and lift others around me up to be that as well!

Volunteer Spotlight: Kelly Burns

This week, our Volunteer Spotlight is on Kelly Burns!

Why do you volunteer with ASTEP?
I volunteered with ASTEP because I loved their mission. Art education is so important, and art can be a powerful tool to grow community.

What is your favorite memory from an ASTEP program?
My favorite memory from this past summer is our first rehearsal with all of our sound equipment. After the last song ended they were best essay writing service jumping up and down with huge smiles. The students were able to hear what all of their practice and teamwork had turned into, and they were ecstatic to show everyone at the final performance.

Why is arts education important?
Arts education is important because it teaches confidence, empathy, creativity and imagination. The arts have the power to build the self esteem and spirit of a person, bring a community together, and inspire a greater world.

How has art impacted/inspired you?
The arts inspire me every day, from music that pumps me up in the morning to the great works of theatre that have changed my perspective on different issues. But most of all, the process of creating different types of art has brought me life long friends and colleagues and shaped me into who I am today.

What do you hope your students gain from your time with them?
When I work with students I want their biggest take away to be confidence. With ASTEP, many of the students I taught were sitting down with an instrument for the first time, and the first week of rehearsals I got a lot of “I can’t do this.” However, in the last few weeks we were having breakthroughs everyday. The best part of teaching is watching students work hard and achieve something they originally thought was impossible. I hope they learned that they are capable of anything.

What have you learned from your students?
This past summer my students taught me about community. My students ranged in age from 6 to 14 but they had no difficulty coming together and playing like a band. The younger students looked up to the older students, who found themselves in leadership positions. The community was incredible, as we had support from parents and other teachers from the first day of camp to the final performance. My students showed me just how much you can accomplish when you have the love and support of a community.

Any advice to share for new ASTEP volunteers?
My advice to future ASTEP volunteers is simply to have fun. If your students are working hard and enjoying themselves, then the art you create will reflect that.

Thank you, Kelly for your hard work and dedication! We could not do this work without you! 



Volunteer with ASTEP in NYC!

Every week ASTEP Volunteer Teaching Artists join the ASTEP on STAGE! Team to share their artistic power! ASTEP on STAGE! is a way for artists who have some time on their hands to contribute and volunteer with youth that have little to no access to the arts. ASTEP on STAGE! is a bridge to close the gap between artists and students! Together we focus on spreading the knowledge, imaginative power, and exploration of the world through the arts! 

Our programming runs year round with multiple partnering sites that focus on bringing Music, Dance, Visual Art, and Theatre to our communities all around New York City! You can find ASTEP working with amazing community organizations who offer a powerful support system and significant resources to underserved communities in Flatbush, East New York, Sheepshead Bay, Mott Haven, Harlem, and Washington Heights.

ASTEP partners with community organizations that are deeply committed to serving vulnerable and underserved communities throughout New York City, including youth affected by the justice system, immigration status, homelessness, HIV/AIDS, and systemic poverty.

As a Volunteer Teaching Artist you may find yourself leading a workshop in your specific artistic field, taking part in an exciting day of fun and games, or showcasing your astounding talents in an evening full of inspiring performances! Our ASTEP on STAGE! Volunteer Teaching Artists work to empower students throughout New York City to build life skills, learn to creatively problem solve, explore various art forms and activities, and find confidence in their voice and choice

LOCATION: Brooklyn, South Bronx, and Manhattan
People of color, LGTBQ+, those with disabilities, and anyone excited to work with us are STRONGLY encouraged to apply.
Training Provided.

Email Monique Letamendi at monique@asteponline.org or call (212)921-1227 to learn more information!



Volunteer Spotlight: Michael Lunder

This week, our Volunteer Spotlight is on Michael Lunder!

Why do you volunteer with ASTEP?
I volunteer with ASTEP because volunteer work has always been a very important part of my life and I love the ASTEP approach to supplying volunteers that can help serve all kinds of local missions in various locations.

Why is arts education important?
Arts education is so important because it inspires creative thinking, problem solving, teamwork, self expression, and shows people the power of stepping out of their comfort zone and embracing new experiences and challenges!

What is your favorite memory from an ASTEP program?
Picking a favorite memory is nearly impossible, but I think one major highlight of my Shanti Bhagwan experience was watching the graduating class trying to learn how to waltz. We got to watch them grow from awkward and uncomfortable teenagers that were stumbling over each other’s feet into these blossoming, confident, young adults that held their chins high ready for anything the world had in store for them!

How has art impacted/inspired you?
Art impacted me as a teenager by giving me an outlet to express all of the feelings I was too shy to speak up about to anybody. It inspires me everyday to chase impossible dreams and follow my heart in every day situations, and it keeps the passionate fire burning inside of me.

What do you hope your students gain from your time with them?
I would truly hope my students feel empowered to find passion and happiness, gain self acceptance and feel self-worth from their time with me.

What have you learned from your students?
Every day as a teacher reminds me to embrace imperfection. It also reminds me how powerful love and kindness are, and reminds me that there’s always room for fun.

Is there any advice you would like to share for new ASTEP Volunteers?
I don’t think I’m in a place to give any advice, but I guess I’d just say to leave your mind and your heart open and embrace every moment!

Thank you, Michael, for making magic happen in our programs!
We could not do this work without you!


Volunteer Spotlight: Stephanie Hyde

This week, our Volunteer Spotlight is on Stephanie Hyde!

Why do you volunteer with ASTEP?
I believe everyone deserves access to arts education. ASTEP brings arts education to underprivileged communities, and we, as a team, strive to teach kids how to express themselves through the arts. We give students a creative outlet, and we teach them that it is accessible 365 days a year, not just when ASTEP is present.

What is your favorite memory from an ASTEP program?
Every single time we had even a moment of free time, I would have several students come up to me and say, “Miss Stephanie, can you please, please, please play your bassoon? *Air bassoon*” I love playing my bassoon, but there has been no performance that beats playing for the kids in the music room. Their enthusiasm was amazing. Practicing isn’t the same in the U.S. I miss my audience of amazing kids while I practice.

Why is arts education important?
Arts education teaches you more than facts and figures. The three C’s: collaboration, cooperation, communication are vital to the arts. The three C’s are naturally taught through doing, and they are never explicitly explained, but almost like a positive side effect to the arts. While the classes like math, English, science, etc. are important, the premise of these courses are rooted in facts, theorems, rules, and figures. While there is a technical side to the arts, it is rooted in expressionism.

How has art impacted/inspired you?
Most people within the arts communities just want to see their friends and colleagues succeed. I love being a part of a community full of kindness. There is no room in the world to bring people down, because bringing someone down does not make you any better. Nothing brings me more joy than seeing my friends and kids perform. It is so beautiful to see someone doing what they love, and it is amazing to be able to hear someone’s growth. I love being a part of a community where we love to see each other grow, progress, and succeed.

What do you hope your students gain from your time with them?
I want my students to know they should always, always perform. I firmly believe that music should be performed no matter what the level is. Music should not just be performed if it’s absolutely perfect. Music is beautiful at all stages of development and sharing your music is important. I also want my kids to know the emotional impact music can have. At the beginning of my time at SB, my kids thought the only way for music to have meaning was if the music had words. As a bassoonist, I knew that this was not true, and it was my job to collaborate with my co-teacher, Mr. Michael, to figure out how to lead the students to this conclusion on their own. By the end of camp, the students (!!) composed their own instrumental piece about what SB means to them. It was beautiful and amazing, and they made Mr. Michael and I SO proud.

What have you learned from your students?
First of all, I learned that I am terrible at riddles. The kids of SB are riddle masters. Every single student taught me something important and valuable. For every one thing I taught the students, they taught me five. Teaching and learning is an exchange, and as a teacher, you must be willing to adapt and be pushed out of your comfort zone. Going to SB, I had a huge fear of singing and playing piano in front of people. By the end of camp, I was singing in front of the class, and I was TEACHING piano lessons. The kids pushed me five miles outside of my comfort zone, and I loved every second of it.

Any advice to share for new ASTEP volunteers?
Do not go in with any expectations. Do not worry about not having anything planned beforehand. The kids will inspire you, and they will amaze you. Let your heart and your kids guide your work. (Also pack more snacks than just protein bars…I still can’t even look at one 5 months later).



Volunteer Spotlight: Leila Mire

This week, our Volunteer Spotlight is on Leila Mire!

Why do you volunteer with ASTEP?
ASTEP is one of those special places where arts education and children’s needs are put at the forefront. I volunteer with ASTEP because I love the children and the team. The currency exchanged is through endless smiles, laughter, and creativity.

Why is arts education important?
In my opinion, I have the most important job in the world. Arts education stands for everything that makes a person a contributing member of society. I don’t just teach dance. I teach creativity, acceptance, culture, and teamwork.

What is your favorite memory from an ASTEP program?
My favorite memory from ASTEP was spending the summer in Elaine, Arkansas. The complete immersion of our team into the community allowed us to fully share ourselves with the culture in an organic, beautiful way.

How has art impacted/inspired you?
Art has shaped my life in every imaginable way possible. In literature, a bildungsroman, refers to a coming of age novel. A künstlerroman is a coming of age novel through the arts. I like to say that everyone has a bildungsroman. If you’re really lucky, you get to have a künstlerroman. I’m blessed to have a künstlerroman that has allowed me to learn, grow, and become who I am through the arts. Teaching allows me to share and contribute to other künstlerromans.

What do you hope your students gain from your time with them?
I hope students grow and become more creative, inspired, passionate people. I hope to ignite a fire in them that can’t be extinguished.

What have you learned from your students?
Smiles go a long way, fort night dances are here to stay, and creativity should never be kept at bay. 😉

Is there any advice you would like to share for new ASTEP Volunteers?
You’re never “just a teacher” or “just a performer.” That mindset is so limiting. The two inform one another. Learn everything. Be open. Give space and be ready for anything and everything to happen and if you’re lucky, it will.

Thank you, Leila, for making magic happen in our programs! We could not do this work without you!





Volunteer with us at Shanti Bhavan!

This Spring, we are sending a team of 12 Volunteer Teaching Artists to Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project in Southern India to deliver a multi-week arts camp that focuses on Music, Filmmaking, Dance, Visual Art, Storytelling, and Musical Theatre!

Each May, ASTEP Volunteer Teaching Artists travel to Shanti Bhavan Children’s project, a residential school for children in India’s lowest castes leading art-based classes and activities with students from 4th to 12th grade. The camp is full of community building activities, focusing on enhancing personal development and leadership skills. Camp activities range from shadow puppet shows of Shakespeare to face painting…and everything in between!  

ASTEP Arts Camp at Shanti Bhavan works to empower students to build life skills, share and experience various art forms and activities, and creating lifelong memories that will stay with them as they transition through life!


Dates: Mid-May – Early June 2020

APPLICATION DATE: February 15th, 2020

LOCATION: Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project (just outside of Bangalore)

WHO: You! All artists with a passion for making a difference!

People of color, LGBTQ+, those with disabilities, and anyone excited to work with us are STRONGLY encouraged to apply. 

Training Provided.

Room and board is provided by ASTEP and all Volunteer Artists

Email Monique Letamendi at monique@asteponline.org or give us a ring at (212)921-1227 to learn more!

Urgent Update: These people could be anywhere in your community!


BREAKING NEWS: In the past year, ASTEP was responsible for arts programming for almost 4,000 students around the world, taught by over 200 Volunteer Teaching Artists. As we approach 2020, help us spread this powerful influenza to more children than ever before.

Give to ASTEP today.