Rachel Kara Perez’s blog: Each day


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 #5:

September 5, 2018

Each day

My padrino tells me, obsessing over the past is what breeds depression. Fixating on the future is what breeds anxiety. That we can only truly ever appreciate and have a life well-lived if we focus our energy on the present, allowing ourselves to be fully here and now.

In this work, and especially in this mighty city, it is easy to find excuses not to follow this thoughtful and somewhat sage advice. The trains are late, we are waiting for our next check, one of the children may be gone next week, new sets of expectations, someone is late, we didn’t get that gig…the list is long.

Working with refugee youth, and specifically unaccompanied minors during my time with ASTEP has granted me a different relationship with impermanence. It came almost all at once, as I spoke to a fellow teacher from the Refugee Youth Summer Academy about my work at our site with Lutheran Social Services. I expressed my struggle with endings, how saying goodbye (or harder still, not being afforded an opportunity to say goodbye) never got easier with this work, how I had cried and not known how to channel that sorrow after a child leaves, especially when they’ve been at LSS for a long time and then one day are just not there anymore.

The advice she gave me was a total game changer. She suggested at the end of each class I take a moment to let the children know how much they mean to me. That way, even if I don’t have the opportunity to say an individual goodbye to each of them before they leave, I can rest assured that they know how I feel about them, that I believe in them, and that I care. Little did I realize how effective this would be and also how soon I would need to say a goodbye of my own.

I am moving on from ASTEP to further my work in arts activism, working full time for an arts and social justice organization. It’s a wonderful opportunity, and yet I will miss ASTEP dearly. Of course, I will find ways to collaborate and stay connected, always.

My last day with the children at LSS  I actually didn’t have a Volunteer Teaching Artist and was able to take the lead as opposed to offering on site support. It felt fortuitous. I threw them a little party, we had snacks, listened to music, and drew together. I took the advice of my colleague, and now friend, and explained that this was my small way of expressing my gratitude. That I wanted all of them to know that they are important. That whether we have been together one day, or two weeks, or seven months, that each day is special to me, and that I will always think of them. I told them the time I have spent with them has changed my life. I thanked them for their time and for their presence. And I thank everyone at ASTEP, for your support and encouragement, for the Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship, for the honor of carrying on this work for those who no longer can. And though I must say goodbye, please accept this modest writing as an expression of my gratitude, and know that each day was special to me.

Welcome to our newest staff member, Austin Sora!

 

We’re thrilled to announce that Austin Sora has joined the ASTEP staff as the Assistant to Development and Administration!

Find out some more about Austin in the interview below:


Name:
Austin Sora

Where did you grow up? Toronto, Canada

Where did you work before joining the ASTEP team? I recently moved back to New York after living in Dallas for three years, performing with Bruce Wood Dance. Administratively, I’ve worked with The Clive Barnes Foundation, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, and Bruce Wood Dance.

Have you been onsite with any ASTEP programs? Which ones? My first teaching experience with ASTEP was teaching dance at Women in Need (WIN) as part of the ASTEP on STAGE! program. I’ve also volunteered for ASTEP at the Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA), in partnership with the IRC.

Did you have a background in the arts or teaching, when you started? I have been dancing my whole life, and I am fortunate to be able to continue doing it professionally. The first class I taught for ASTEP in 2014 was my first teaching experience! It was a wonderful introduction to teaching because I saw first hand how much the arts can empower and connect people.

What is the most challenging part of your work? The challenges of this job are in a way what I love most. I am asked to wear a lot of hats, which allows me to work in several different areas within the organization. It can be a challenge juggling a range of responsibilities, but I learn something new every day!

What is the most rewarding part of your work? ASTEP’s mission is one that I believe in strongly, and I love coming to work each day knowing that I am playing a small part in bringing the arts to so many children in the US and abroad.

What do you look forward to, each day, working at ASTEP? The ASTEP community is made up of a special group of people, whose generosity and passion inspires me each day.

What song best encapsulates your working personality? “Happy” by Pharrell Williams! 🙂

 

 

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Ring in the holiday season with us! Mark your calendars for the 10th Annual New York City Christmas: A Concert to Benefit ASTEP.

Conceived, produced and music directed by Drama Desk-nominated orchestrator Lynne Shankel (Cry-Baby, Altar Boyz, Allegiance), the evening will feature Broadway’s most sought-after talent, putting their spin on your holiday favorites. Past performers include Sierra Boggess, Raul Esparza, Derek Klena, Lindsay Mendez, Andy Karl, Orfeh, and more!

Monday, December 10
7:00PM
Joe’s Pub at the Public Theatre

Tickets: $75 | $100 | $125
SOLD OUT!
Sponsorships available at various levels

ALL proceeds from ticket and album sales will support ASTEP’s mission of connecting performing and visual artists with underserved youth in the U.S. and around the world. Together, we give kids access to the transforming power of the arts!

Click here for more information, or email Katherine Nolan Brown at katherine@asteponline.org to inquire about sponsorships.

Pablo Falbru’s blog: We Started From The Bottom Now We’re Here


Pablo Falbru, a 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, will be sharing monthly blog posts about his experiences teaching the arts through ASTEP at Refugee Youth Summer Academy. A team of 13 ASTEP Volunteer Artists lead the creative arts classes at the Refugee Youth Summer Academy, which supports the personal growth, cultural adjustment, and education of multicultural refugee youth and helps them successfully transition into the US school system. 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 #3

August 22, 2018

Week 6 | RYSA: We Started From The Bottom Now We’re Here

We’re in the home stretch of the Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA). It has been quite an experience in all the good ways. As we gear up for graduation performances, the reality that my time with these amazing students is coming to an end starts to sink in. Seeing each class grow in confidence not only in the fundamentals of music, but in self-expression and vocabulary, has been an honor and a privilege.

The joy and excitement they have when they come into class reminds me of the power each of us has to impact someone’s life. My co-teacher Nick and I reflect on our classes at the end of each day and we are always blown away by how fast our students grasp the lessons. It inspires us to push ourselves in our own work outside of teaching. For me, it’s also a reminder that we have the capacity to grow and do more. And that we should set mindful intentions so that we can be the best version of ourselves.

One of the most heartwarming things that happened during the program was when a new
student was added to the class. There was always a “veteran” student that supported the new
kid. Helping them get their bearings, teaching them what they knew and just being there to
support them. It’s adorable to watch and witness unbiased kindness really does something to
ya. I have no doubt that it’s going to be an emotional final week. I’m proud to have been a part
of their lives and feel blessed to experience their love and gratitude. I learned a lot from them
and will keep the joy, wonder and kindness they emanate in my heart.

We could all learn something from the innocence of a child. Some of these kids have had
experiences that I couldn’t imagine having to go through. Yet, they are full of love, excitement
and understanding. If more adults had this mindset, the world would be a better place. So thank
you, students of RYSA. You have made me a better man. And thank you to the administrators
of the Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship for the opportunity to grow, give back and
honor Jennifer’s legacy.

Be loved, inspired and live your best life,

Pablo Falbru

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