2019 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellows — ANNOUNCED!

ASTEP is thrilled to announce that Tiffany Ramos and Gabby Serrano have been selected as recipients of the 2019 Winter/Spring Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship for their work with ASTEP on STAGE!

ASTEP on STAGE! introduces youth from underserved communities in NYC to the power of the arts by bringing performing and visual artists from the Broadway and NYC community to after-school and in-school programs. Because ASTEP believes that all young people should have access to the arts, regardless of their backgrounds, ASTEP on STAGE! partners with NYC organizations serving youth affected by the justice system, incarceration, gun violence, homelessness, immigration status, systemic poverty, and HIV/AIDS.

The Fellowship is a unique opportunity for individuals who closely model Jennifer’s values to introduce our students to new art forms and new artists. These Fellows will provide students with the chance to not only try new things, but to discover role models from all walks of life and to dream about a future full of opportunities.

“Thank you so much, it is a great honor to receive this fellowship award! Volunteering with ASTEP for the past four years has been a deeply inspiring and educational experience. Facilitating in the classroom has gifted me with numerous irreplaceable opportunities to act as a guide through inquiry, exploration, and growth. I look forward to continuing to share the power of the performing and visual arts with unique and thriving minds.”
“I’m currently in school for social work and have a passion for visual arts. ASTEP is largely accredited for encouraging me to continue to pursue the arts and integrate it into my future career. I’ve learned that I can combine my two passions and that it is totally possible to create whatever it is you envision.”

Gabby and Tiffany are inspiring examples of how the arts give our students the skills to learn they have what it takes to succeed no matter the obstacles, which is key to breaking cycles of intergenerational poverty. We’re excited to share their journey through monthly blog posts so stay tuned!

ASTEP’s 10th Annual NYC Christmas: A Concert to Benefit ASTEP

Phantom star Sierra Boggess, Carousel Tony Award winner Lindsay Mendez, and original Anastasia star Derek Klena headlined ASTEP’s 10th annual New York City Christmas: A Concert to Benefit ASTEP on December 10 at Joe’s Pub.

Created and produced by Drama Desk winner Lynne Shankel, the sold-out show also featured Gerard Canonico, Becca Gottlieb, Chester Gregory, David Josefsberg, Melody Madarasz, Lauren Marcus, Eric William Morris, Alyse Alan Louis, Shea Renee, Marissa Rosen, Sally Wilfert, and recording artist Anya Singleton.

The band featured musicians Shankel (piano), Joe Mowatt (rums), Randy Landau (bass), Peter Calo (guitar), Eric Davis (guitar), Summer Boggess (cello), Max Mosten (violin), Colin Brigstocke (trumpet), Harry Hassell (saxophone), and Scott Kreitzer (saxophone).

ASTEP recently released a new single of “All I Want For Christmas Is You” performed by Aladdin’s Telly Leung, which is now available on iTunes and Amazon, as well as all streaming platforms.

Also launched is a CharityBuzz auction that includes experiences from HamiltonMean Girls, My Fair Lady, and Wicked in addition to The Prom, Come From Away, and King Kong.


Announcement: Fall 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship Recipients

ASTEP is thrilled to announce that Katrina Yaukey and Will Thomason have been selected as recipients of the 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship!

The Fellows will be taking the lead as Program Facilitators at our ASTEP on STAGE! sites in Harlem and the Bronx with CHOICES Alternative to Detention Programming. At this program, Will and Katrina will help ASTEP Volunteer Teaching Artists share their magic with young people who have been involved with the justice system. This program will give students the ability to share their voices and choices through the arts, all while having fun!

The Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenger Fellowship gives this unique opportunity to individuals who closely model Jennifer’s personal values and skill set and ensures all young people, regardless of their backgrounds, will experience the transforming power of the arts, much as the arts impacted Jen’s life.

“It’s an incredible and unexpected privilege to have been chosen for this fellowship. The way in which Jennifer’s family has chosen to honor her legacy with this program is a gift to so many people. It’s wonderful that Jennifer’s passion for the arts will continue to be shared by many people!”
– Katrina Yaukey, 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow

“ASTEP has easily been the highlight of my Fall. I have enjoyed playing word games in the Bronx, building relationships with high-schoolers in Harlem, and hanging out and sharing music with kids living in a residential facility next door to my apartment in Washington Heights, and all of these opportunities to share and grow are thanks to ASTEP programming. Becoming a Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow further excites and inspires me to give to these ASTEP programs. I will aspire to give passionately and compassionately, as I understand Jennifer did. I look forward to my continued involvement with ASTEP, and I thank you for making it possible to do so.”
– Will Thomason, 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow


Volunteer Spotlight: Nate Rothermel


This week, our Volunteer Spotlight is on Nate Rothermel!

Why do you volunteer with ASTEP?
My impulse to volunteer with ASTEP has a lot to do with the fact that I identify with and champion its mission: to provide opportunity and experiences in the arts to communities and places which are impoverished of such. There is a genuine care and purpose at the core of each ASTEP program, and being a part of that and of service to that is an absolute honor.

How long have you been volunteering with ASTEP?
I have been volunteering with ASTEP for 5 years: I started volunteering with my ASTEP Chapter at Albright College my freshman year, and have continued volunteering to today!

What programs have you been a part of with ASTEP?
I have volunteered with and been the Artistic Director of ASTEP at Albright, taught in ASTEP’s Teach for India program, and am currently the President of ASTEP’s National Chapter Committee.

What is your favorite memory from an ASTEP program?
Each morning at Teach for India my students and I would walk to the classroom we utilized in their village, and along the walk we would share conversations about our days, about the differences and commonalities between India and the United States, and about our lives–hopes, dreams, stories. There’s something special about these walks and conversations, because they illuminate for me how vital it is to foster meaningfully shared experiences, and hopefully bring us one step closer to breaking the cycle of poverty existing in our world. 

Thank you, Nate, for volunteering with us at ASTEP! The initiative you take to do amazing work does not go unnoticed, and we cannot do our work without you!

To learn more about ways YOU can get involved with ASTEP, email Sami Manfredi at sami@asteponline.org.







Welcome to our newest staff member, Tiffany Ramos!


We’re excited to announce that Tiffany Ramos has joined the ASTEP staff as the Program Administrative Associate!

Get to know Tiffany in the interview below:

Where did you grow up?
Jackson Heights & Sunnyside, Queens, NYC.

Where did you work before joining the ASTEP team?
Before joining the ASTEP team I worked in an art store. I worked with teachers and prominent visual artists all around New York City.

Have you been onsite with any ASTEP programs? Which ones?
I have been onsite with a few ASTEP programs. I have taught visual art in AIA in Florida, Shanti Bhavan, and ASTEP on STAGE! at CHOICES Bronx, Lutheran Social Services, Incarnation Children’s Center, and Harlem Justice Corps.

Did you have a background in the arts or teaching, when you started?
When I first started volunteering with ASTEP I was a junior in college, I only had a background in the arts. As I was learning more about ASTEP’s programming in New York City, I sought out additional opportunities to expand my teaching skills, in order to volunteer with ASTEP on STAGE! when I was back in NYC.

What is the most challenging part of your work?
I would say the most challenging and thought provoking part of this work is going into a classroom and working as a team to figure out the specific learning and teaching structures that best fit the different learners and the teaching artists in the room.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part of my work is seeing the joy and confidence build in the students, as well as the teachers.

What do you look forward each day working with ASTEP?
I look forward to connecting communities that are unjustly underserved with artists who are passionate about their craft. I also look forward to working with all the positive energies that exist in the ASTEP office.

What song best encapsulates your working personality?
That is a really tough question. If I can, I’m going to say I don’t have one song, but I have an artist that I feel fits best and that’s Janelle Monae.




ASTEP benefit concert, Aug 13 at 7PM

Recently, there has been a great deal of news coverage related to one of the many populations that ASTEP is proud to serve. Hundreds of youth affected by refugee/asylee/unaccompanied minor status have been thrust into the limelight – and while ASTEP isn’t able to prevent what’s happening to families at our border, we will continue to play a vital role in caring for them while they await the next steps in their journey. Most importantly, making sure that the students we serve get the chance to use the arts, if only for a moment, to remind them how to be kids.

In response to this humanitarian crisis, ASTEP will be putting on a concert in support of our students. On Monday August 13 at 7pm, ASTEP’s Founder/Co-Executive Director Mary-Mitchell Campbell will take the stage at Joe’s Pub for SANCTUARY: ASTEP & Broadway Sing for Children in Need. Mary-Mitchell, Music Director of Mean Girls, together with some of ASTEP’s most stalwart supporters & performers, will perform to honor and sustain the children at the center of this maelstrom.

Join us for this one of a kind event – purchase your tickets today!



Dr. Keith Bell, Licensed Acupuncturist
The Bisesto Family
Angie Canuel Kantor
Karen + Dan McCallan
Monterey International Pop Festival
Sheri Sarkisian
Dr. Rocky Slonaker + Mr. Dan Friedman



Rachel Kara Perez’s blog: Paint on the edges

Rachel Kara Perez, a 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, will be sharing monthly blog posts about her experiences teaching the arts through ASTEP on STAGE! This program gives over 1,500 NYC youth access to the transforming power of the arts by bringing performing and visual artists from the Broadway and NYC community to after-school and in-school programs. ASTEP on STAGE! partners with schools and community organizations serving youth affected by the justice system, incarceration, gun violence, homelessness, immigration status, systemic poverty, and HIV/AIDS. Through the arts, these young people learn they have what it takes to succeed no matter the obstacles, which is key to breaking cycles of poverty.


Blog Post #2:

May 10, 2018

It’s always amazing to see how quickly things can change and how at times they stay remarkably the same. For several months I had much of the same core group of students, and then while somewhat knocked out of commission due to being sick this month, I came back and it felt like I had to start all over again, earn their trust again, explain why I had been absent, deal with the guilt of unexpectedly needing to stay home to rest. Then learn someone from the core group, one of the little ones (which is how we affectionately refer to the younger class), left while I was gone. The turnover struggle is real, and you would think it gets easier with time.

Recently we had a class working with body and face paint, and the children really got into it. Maria, our Teaching Artist for this particular lesson had worked with the children before, and those who had been there, remembered her favorably. We had a large group of older students, and bunched them in at the tables.  We had some newer students who came in a little late, as they were completing their orientation. No matter, the more the merrier, and for whatever reason, at this site I’ve observed that the children take particularly well to the visual arts, and are good sports about sharing materials and space.

I always find it interesting how the confidence of very small children is something to be envious of. Perhaps it is not even what one would call confidence, more a disregard, or a lack of self awareness, a beautiful naiveté that leaves them refreshingly unguarded and willing to try something new. Working with children ages 5-17, I notice that self-conscious behavior can often set in as early as 10. I say all this because in the younger group, I had a little girl and boy saying they couldn’t paint a heart, even after I saw them do it, and wanted me to do it for them. They wanted it to be perfect. A new child, 5 years old and all smiles (also the younger sibling of the little girl) not only did not care whether he could make the perfect heart, he was not interested in it. He proceeded to paint his entire arm green with such dexterity, he would have painted his sleeves had I not jumped in to roll them up. Una casa! he proudly proclaimed. If only we were all so confident in our renderings, in what we create. There is always much we can learn from the little ones.

He proceeded to wipe off his arms and paint over and over again, enthusiastically creating new temporary masterpieces, marvelling at the fact that he had transformed his skin into a canvas. There was a lot of laughter, and his sisters kept telling him not to get it on his shirt, as I repeatedly rolled it up and he repeatedly painted to the edge (he definitely got it on his shirt, but it washes off easily). If I could give the students one thing only, it would be the ability to never lose that innate curiosity so many little ones have. To maintain that spark, that eagerness, that imagination, that beautiful naiveté, and fearlessly transform it into art. To not worry about getting paint on the edges.




Marcus Crawford Guy’s blog: A 2 SHOW DAY

Marcus Crawford Guy, a 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, will be sharing monthly blog posts about his experiences teaching the arts through ASTEP on STAGE! This program gives over 1,500 NYC youth access to the transforming power of the arts by bringing performing and visual artists from the Broadway and NYC community to after-school and in-school programs. ASTEP on STAGE! partners with schools and community organizations serving youth affected by the justice system, incarceration, gun violence, homelessness, immigration status, systemic poverty, and HIV/AIDS. Through the arts, these young people learn they have what it takes to succeed no matter the obstacles, which is key to breaking cycles of poverty.


Blog Post #2:


545am / My alarm rings and the only thing slower than me is the sunrise. I’ve got an hour long train ride ahead, followed by a 15min walk to my first site for the day: a juvenile detention center where I’ll be leading classes in poetry over 4 days in the next two weeks. ASTEP Shirt – check! Supplies – check! Game Face – check! And just like that I’m out the door…

845am / My Teaching Artist cohort and I are taken through 3 security doors to meet the school librarian who’ll escort us and our pre-approved materials to the classroom. “The kids are excited for poetry month!” I am too. And I’m hoping the caffeine (now 3 hours old in my system) keeps working its magic.

915am / SHOWTIME. Act 1. 2 young women write Acrostic poems and open up, sharing the positive qualities they’ve assigned to each letter of their name. Their uniform ages them and for a moment I forget they’re just teenagers – they speak so beautifully. But their youth shines through as colored markers (approved contraband) are brought into the mix.

10am / One of these young women is going to be released today. She wears a smile brighter than the sun and the girls giggle their way out the door, the guards having called and approved movement between classes. My energy and spirit are rejuvenated – who needs caffeine?

1055am / Act 2. The class draws to a close as 4 boys, having written their own Acrostic poems, share what they learned with the class. Through their lens of “cool” I can hear them celebrating one another, having a new set of armor being built up as their positive behaviors are acknowledged. As they walk out the door I know they’re all questioning: Can clever be cool? And is that alliteration?

1230pm / I crash in through my front door, inhale my lunch and switch out supplies for the afternoon show… I’m about to head back out on another hour long train journey… but not before I nap!

345pm / I meet my next team of Teaching Artists and we immediately start talking about how our plans can change if the group is too small, too large, too energetic, too exhausted, too noisy… you get the picture! They’re flexible, they’re ready and it’s showtime all over again!

445pm / Energy is flowing – dare I say uncontrollably. We’ve explored our signature rhythms and are trying (oh, how hard we are trying!) to focus on drawing the things the music makes us think of. Suddenly, “How Far I’ll Go” from Disney’s Moana blares out through a handy portable speaker and becomes the ultimate antidote to chaos. Crayons and markers are held up like candles, it’s Beyonce at Coachella, and the kids join one another for a chorus of their favorite song. The joy is palpable.

550pm / Time to wrap up. “What’s one thing you learned or enjoyed today?” Several kids sigh. “What?!” I exclaim, shocked by the reaction. “But we loved so many things! The drawing with Mr. Eric and music and playing the BAH! game and playing Bunnies and Hawks with Mr Julian.” The reviews are in and it’s clear they were a hit!

715pm / After my fourth hour underground today, my front door slams shut behind me and my ASTEP shirt stares up at me. The word STRIVING looks a little bolder than it has before. Today we did that. We were striving in pursuit of something great and I think we inched our way closer to the goal. I open my laptop and refresh my email. Gmail politely reminds me that tomorrow I’ll be an Actor again, out in search of a whole other kind of two-show day.


NEW! Summer Program in Arkansas




Don’t know where you will be this summer? Do you want to bring joy and hope to a new community that is hungry for change? This summer, ASTEP is partnering with Waves of Prayer in Elaine, Arkansas to host the Heroes of Elaine arts camp.

With a population of 636 people, this rural Arkansas community is still flooded with segregation, unemployment, and poverty. Coming up on 100 years after the largest mass lynching in US History, this new summer program aims to help the community of Elaine remember the past and claim a new future for all Elainians. This three-week summer camp will focus on visual art, theatre, spoken word. music, and dance and will teach students to use their voices, believe in themselves, and collaborate with their peers. The Elaine’s Heroes arts camp was first hosted in the summer of 2017 by Waves of Prayer and Remember2019 Collective members, Arielle Julia Brown and Mauricio Salgado. After a successful first summer, ASTEP was invited by Waves of Prayer and Remember2019 to support the development of the program.

Program Dates: July 4th – July 29th
Application Deadline: May 15th
Location: Elaine, Arkansas
Who: All artists!

At ASTEP, we are making a conscious effort to have our artists reflect the diversity of the communities that we serve. People of color, LGBTQ+, those with disabilities, those with all educational backgrounds, and anyone excited to work with us are strongly encouraged to apply.

Housing, Flights, and food are all provided by ASTEP and Waves of Prayer

Email Sami Manfredi at sami@asteponline.org or give us a ring at 212.921.1227 to learn more!

Be a part of Refugee Youth Summer Academy 2018!


For our 9th consecutive summer, ASTEP is teaming up with the Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA), a 6-week summer camp that focuses on welcoming newly arrived refugee youth to their new life in NYC.

At RYSA, ASTEP Teaching Artists use their art form to help the students achieve school readiness, build English language skills, and develop coping skills and confidence. ASTEP Teaching Artists lead performing and visual arts classes with these goals in mind so that the students can learn to fully embrace who they are, where they come from, and where they are going. We use art as a tool to show students that they can be proud of who they are and thrive.

Program Dates: June 30th – August 17th

Application deadline: May 15th

Location: New York City

Time Commitment: 7 Hours Per Week

Who: All artists! We need a diverse team and hope that you are a part of it!

– Email Sami Manfredi at sami@asteponline.org or give us a ring at 212.921.1227 to learn more!

– Stipends are provided for ASTEP Teaching Artists

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