ASTEP to be honored at the 2013 Celebration to Benefit New York Kids! Purchase your ticket!

Celebration Benefit


ASTEP is the proud recipient of a service grant from Youth, I.N.C. that includes year-long fundraising training, culminating in a benefit at the Waldorf=Astoria on Tuesday, November 19. We have the opportunity to put this fundraising training into practice by selling tickets and sponsorships to the event — our fundraising goal is $40,000!

Youth, I.N.C. hosts the event and underwrites the costs so the funds we raise directly benefit our programs.**

Purchasing a ticket not only helps us achieve our fundraising goal but it will also make the arts accessible to underserved children, securing much needed art supplies and musical instruments so they can experience the magic of creativity and imagination.

Tickets are $300 and sponsorship opportunities are also available. Purchase your ticket today!

** Youth, I.N.C. processes ticket sales so their name will appear on the credit card statement, but ASTEP will receive the funds.

Celebration E-Invitation_Details2

Children’s book proceeds to benefit ASTEP — great gift idea!

Congratulations to ASTEP Supporter, Karina Medina, who recently published her first children’s book! Karina works with us through our Creative Arts at PS199 program, and her book, which focuses on a child  forced to leave his home and then emigrates to NYC, was inspired through her experiences working with the same population of immigrant/refugee children that we work with. It’s beautifully written and illustrated, and the story is being used in our after-school classes to engage our students in discussing their own journeys to the U.S.

The book launch is scheduled for May 5, 2013 at The Museum of Tolerance New York from 11:30am-1:30pm, free admission.

Proceeds from the sale of the book will go to support ASTEP — thank you, Karina, for your tireless support of the children we work with at PS199 in Queens!

The eBook version is available for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Print version is available through the Xlibris.

We encourage you to buy a copy — a great gift idea for the young ones in your life!


Student-led play raises money to support ASTEP!

Even after graduating from Walnut Hill School for the Performing Arts, where they led an ASTEP Student Chapter, this dynamic and inspiring group of students continues to champion ASTEP’s mission. While navigating their first few months as freshman at several different Boston colleges and conservatories, these students knew they wanted to stay involved with our work. They created a play and performed it as a fundraiser for ASTEP. Estrogen & Testosterone debuted with two shows on January 12, 2013 at the 45th Street Theater Jewel Box in NYC, raising over $1,400  to benefit ASTEP’s programming! We are so proud of their commitment to using the arts as a force for social change. For your talent, dedication, and creativity– Jake Evans, Daniel Hutchins, Serena Kassow, Alynn Parola, and Renee Richard — we thank you for being leaders in the ASTEP community!  

Backstage for Christmas with Broadway’s best!

The holiday season is in full swing, thanks to all who participated in our annual holiday benefit, which was a huge success!

The lineup featured — Tituss Burgess (Jersey Boys, The Little Mermaid, Guys and Dolls), Tom Kitt (Next to Normal, American Idiot, Everyday Rapture), Derek Klena (Carrie, Dogfight, “American Idol” Hollywood Week Finalist), Andrew Lippa (Wild Party, You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, The Addams Family), Lindsay Mendez (Godspell, Everyday Rapture, Grease), Julia Murney (Wicked, The Wild Party), Seth Numrich (War Horse, Golden Boy, The Merchant of Venice), and Ali Stroker (“Glee Project”), with Olivia Hardy — performing our favorite holiday songs and several special pieces. Accompanying pianist Mary-Mitchell Campbell, ASTEP’s Founder and Executive Director, was Damien Bassman on drums/percussion.

ASTEP would also like to thank Havana Central Restaurant and Bar for donating food for our guests!

Check out Playbill’s coverage of the event!



Tickets on sale now! Backstage for Christmas: A Holiday Cabaret benefit concert, 12/17 at 6:30pm!

Celebrate the holiday season at an intimate concert to benefit Artists Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP)!

The up-close cabaret — featuring Tituss Burgess (Jersey Boys, The Little Mermaid, Guys and Dolls), Tom Kitt (Next to Normal, American Idiot, Everyday Rapture), Derek Klena (Carrie, Dogfight, “American Idol” Hollywood Week Finalist), Andrew Lippa (Wild Party, You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, The Addams Family), Lindsay Mendez (Godspell, Everyday Rapture, Grease), Julia Murney (Wicked, The Wild Party), Seth Numrich (War Horse, Golden Boy, The Merchant of Venice), and Ali Stroker (“Glee Project”), with Olivia Hardy — will take guests to a private performance space within Broadway’s Foxwoods Theatre; access is through the Stage Door. Expect your favorite holiday songs, and some musical surprises.

Backstage for Christmas: A Holiday Cabaret is produced and music-directed by Drama Desk Award-winning orchestrator Mary-Mitchell Campbell, who is also the Founder and Executive Director of ASTEP. Appearing with pianist Campbell will be Damien Bassman (drums/percussion).

$75 – Admission

$100 – Admission + free copy of ASTEP’s New York City Christmas CD*

All proceeds from tickets to the show and album sales go to supporting ASTEP’s mission to use the power of the arts to transform the lives of underserved youth. PURCHASE TICKETS!

*ASTEP’s New York City Christmas album is a collection of fresh, original approaches–pop, soul, R&B, rock and more–of holiday songs created by Drama Desk nominated orchestrator, Lynne Shankel, and performed by the best musicians and singers from Broadway, including Little Mermaid star Sierra Boggess, Tony Winner Raul Esparza, American Idol star Constatine Maroulis, and many more!

Wine and light hors d’oeuvres will be served, and a silent auction will be held.

For questions, email


Artists Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP) was conceived by Broadway Musical Director Mary-Mitchell Campbell and Juilliard students to transform the lives of youth using the most powerful tool they had—their art. Today, ASTEP connects performing and visual artists with underserved youth in the U.S. and around the world to awaken their imaginations, foster critical thinking, and help them break the cycle of poverty.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world.”


ASTEP was honored to give the keynote address at the 5th anniversary celebration of Adelphi University’s Collaboration Project.  The Collaboration Project is a cross-campus constituency of faculty, staff, students and administrators who create programming and events related to issues of social justice.  This year’s theme is Hunger For Justice, and ASTEP’s Abby Gerdts gave a poignant speech, which you can read below:



Good evening!

I’m so happy to be here. My name is Abby Gerdts and I’m the International Program Director for ASTEP-Artists Striving to End Poverty. We are an organization that believes ART CAN CHANGE THE WORLD. We use the arts as a way to work with children, both in the US, and in Africa, India and Ecuador, and teach them health education and life skills. We’ve actually worked with some students from Adelphi, and we are so impressed and excited to see a University community coming together to explore themes of social justice.

And as you all know, the theme this year is Hunger for Justice.

The need for justice comes about when a person or group of people has been oppressed or marginalized. This can be in relation to race, politics, gender, sexual orientation, or even a deep seeded love of Family Guy. I venture to guess that all of us in this room have been both the perpetrator and the victim of some form of oppression.

We are here as a community to think about how justice can be achieved, and what exactly our role should be as a global citizen.

So, how do we define hunger?

In 2010, approximately 1 in 7 households in the United States were considered ‘food insecure’, which is the highest number ever reported in the US. I have been privileged to work with communities facing some of the most extreme poverty all around the globe, and you’d be shocked to know that some of them were in our own backyards.

Food is a power and a necessary resource. People use the power of food for leverage in many ways, both today and throughout history. Hunger strikes have become a way to bring attention to issues in nonviolent ways. Images of emaciated African children beg us to get involved in this struggle. The Hunger Games is a bestselling book and now movie industry. This is like a car wreck we can’t look away from. Nor should we.

In my global travels, people sometimes ask me if we have poor people in the United States. They often seem surprised when I try to explain the issue of poverty in the US. “But, you are the richest country in the world. How can you have poor people? Aren’t there enough resources for everyone?” Sometimes it takes looking through their eyes for me to see just how unjust the situation is for some Americans.

But it isn’t about feeling guilty for what we have; it is about being conscious of what we waste. Developing a hunger for justice leads us to live in the world in a way that is about paying attention. Being active about knowing what is going on. We live in an age where information is instantaneous. We have the capacity to know what is happening all around the world at all times…..from the wars in Syria to what kind of Starbucks Snooki ordered this afternoon. We can drive the conversations based on what we show interest in. We can choose to NOT bury our heads in the sand and instead to engage in a global conversation about real issues and about saving real people’s lives.

As part of a community of artists with a desire to see justice in our world, we have to be in dialogue with each other. As the anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

We have the ability to encourage each other to open our eyes to our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, our colleagues and friends- to be present so we can bear witness to the struggles that may be happening right in front of us. Not just in Ethiopia, or rural India, or some community in the Bronx.

This past summer, ASTEP invested in a Culinary Arts curriculum in our south Florida program that targets Hispanic migrant children. We were responding to a discovery we made that our kids were unaware Type 2 Diabetes wasn’t a natural progression of getting older. Like grey hair, or sagging skin. They explained to us that everyone would get Type 2 Diabetes, as they munched on Flaming Hot Cheetos and drank a Coke. And everyone they know does have Type 2 Diabetes, because the food their parents can afford that is accessible for the migrant lifestyle isn’t particularly nutritious. Lots of fast food, processed food, with corn syrup. Little to no produce.  It is an interesting experience to introduce common vegetables….like raw carrots…to a 17 year old girl who has never put one in her mouth.

When I try to explain who ASTEP is, I often end up in a conversation about poverty. I explain that there are different kinds of poverty….financial poverty seems obvious, but there is also emotional and spiritual poverty as well. I’d venture to say that there are many kinds of hunger. Hunger for food is clear, but then there is hunger for equality, hunger for peace, hunger for jobs, hunger to be really heard and seen, hunger for community, hunger to belong, and hunger for justice.

As you start to become more aware of your hunger for justice, you may feel the need to become an advocate or an ally for those who are being oppressed. This can be a great thing. We need to strive to create that just society whenever and wherever possible. Personally, I believe it starts here….in this community, in your personal life….with you. With me. Between us. To do that, we need to be living out those intentions in an active way. Justice is truth in action.

I want to leave you with a story by a woman named Jacqueline Novogratz. When she was growing up in Alexandria Virginia, she had a blue sweater that became her prized possession. Her Uncle Ed gave her a wool sweater with an African motif: two zebras at the foot of a mountain. She wrote her name inside and wore it all the time. As she got older the sweater got tighter, and one day at school a boy in her class cracked a joke about the mountain across her chest, and she was humiliated. She vowed never to wear it again, and told her mother to give it to Goodwill.

When she was in her mid 20’s, she traveled to Rwanda to help establish a microfinance enterprise for poor women. As she was jogging in the mountains one afternoon….she spotted a young boy on the road. He was wearing her sweater. She stopped him and turned down the collar to see her name written on the tag. It was the same sweater she donated 11 years earlier. This encounter convinced her that all of us are connected, and every action or inaction, everything we put out into the world has a repercussion felt by people all over the globe that we may never know and never meet.

Remember that we are all connected. Keep the hunger for justice alive as you continue to develop the many communities you will be part of in your life. We all play a role in the change we need to create.

Thank you.



The Hun School of Princeton donates to Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project

Over the past few months, Katie Kubala, an ASTEP Volunteer Artist, has been preparing for her trip to Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project in India. A student at The Hun School of Princeton, Katie and her friend, Austin Bommer, arrived last week and will spend a total of  two and half weeks teaching dance to the students there. With the support of the Community Service Club at The Hun School of Princeton, Katie helped secure 30 scientific calculators (a suitcase-full!) for Shanti Bhavan!

Thank you for supporting our efforts with this thoughtful and useful donation! The students were thrilled to receive this new technology and have already begun to call them “calcies”!

Headmaster Jonathan Brougham and Community Service Head Lynn McNulty present Katie Kubala with a donation of 30 scientific calculators  for the students of Shanti Bhavan in India.


Seniors from the Walnut Hill School for the Arts raised over $1,000 for ASTEP!

Congratulations to the 2012 graduating class at Walnut Hill School for the Arts and thank you to everyone who participated in the Senior Showcase, which raised over $1,000 for ASTEP!

We have all had such a good time working closely with the ASTEP@WalnutHill student chapter, especially Co-Presidents Renee Richard and Jake Evans, both graduating seniors. We wish you all the best as you head to college and hope that we keep in touch. And we’re looking forward to getting to know the new Co-Presidents, Courtney McCain and Owen Alderson, who will take over the leadership position in the fall.

A big thank you to Meg O’Brien and Kyle Brown, members of the ASTEP community, for speaking about ASTEP at the event!




Get your tickets to the Celebration Benefit, November 12 at the Waldorf=Astoria

We’re thrilled to announce our participation in the 2012 A Celebration to Benefit New York Kids gala event.  For a second year in a row, ASTEP is being honored along with 13 other youth-serving nonprofits at the Waldorf=Astoria on November 12, 2012 for a spectacular night of music and celebration, bringing together hundreds of supporters.

We all know how important it is to ensure that young people have the opportunities they need to thrive in today’s society. Since 2003, ASTEP has connected underserved youth with performing and visual artists who use the strongest tool they have—their art—to deliver arts education programs that demonstrate the power of the arts to inspire youth and strengthen communities.

For the Benefit, ASTEP has the chance to raise $30,000 for our programs by selling tickets and sponsorships to the event. Last year, we set a goal of $25,000 and surpassed it by raising over $28,000! Your contribution will enable us to fulfill our ultimate goals: to serve more children in more areas of the U.S. and the world, and to recruit and train more volunteer artists who are the lifeblood of our programs.

To learn more please visit the event website or to support our efforts with an online ticket purchase, click on the Support Now button below.

We would love to celebrate together at this fun and inspiring evening!