Making their voices heard.

Mauricio Salgado, ASTEP’s Director of Domestic Programs, has been leading arts programming in south Florida for over 10 years. Raised in Homestead, Florida, Mauricio has a deeply personal connection to the communities that we serve there. We’d like to share a letter he wrote to the editors of The Miami Herald advocating for efforts that prioritize poverty reduction, an issue that we champion.





Oct 31, 2012

Miami Herald
One Herald Plaza
Miami, Florida 33132-1693

Dear Miami Herald,

A month ago, several of my students witnessed a shooting at Benito Juarez Park during a birthday party. For a few of them, it was their first traumatic experience, but most live with circumstances where violence and trauma are prevalent.

The 2011 U.S. Census report declared that 46.2 million Americans are living at or below the poverty line right now. One in five children are living in poverty. The census also shows that the poverty level in the deep South Dade area has almost doubled in the past 6 years (from 13.8% to 28.4%).

Last summer, our partners in South Florida lost funding given the federal funding cuts to social services. Those cuts immediately affected our capacity to provide essential services in the development and protection of these young people. And unfortunately, neither our families or small businesses are in the position to pick up the slack.

The day after the shooting, I spent the afternoon in the hospital with one of the victims. She reflected that while participating in our summer program, she sees great hope in her generation. She experiences a unity that is uncommon given the diverse demographic. However, these acts of violence shake her confidence in her community. We need her to recover that hope.

I pray that our incoming officials reduce local and federal deficits without increasing poverty. Programs that protect low-income families keep millions of Americans from falling below the poverty line. We must protect these programs for the sake of our children.


Mauricio Salgado
15551 SW 144th Terrace
Miami, FL 33196
(917) 312-2104


Join ASTEP’s hurricane recovery efforts


Our thoughts go out to those affected by Hurricane Sandy.


Our hearts and thoughts remain focused on the communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy. New York City is our home, and we know our volunteers want to get involved to help those in need. ASTEP has committed to organizing volunteer efforts over the next several weeks and has several upcoming opportunities to get involved:

On-site clean up and assistance

  • Friday, November 9 – Come get your hands dirty! ASTEP will lead a team on Staten Island for a full day of assisting clean-up efforts. Please come prepared to do physical labor. Requested donations include: bleach, garbage bags, work gloves, shovels, toilet paper, face masks, mops, brooms, buckets, pain relievers (Advil, Tylenol), and sanitizer.
  • Monday, November 19 – ASTEP will lead a team for a full day of assisting clean-up efforts in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.
  • Thursday, November 22 – ASTEP will lead a team for another full day of assisting clean-up efforts in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
  • Monday, December 3 – ASTEP will lead a team for another full day of assisting clean-up efforts in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.

Sign up by emailing Abby at, who will share more details.


  • With each visit to a site, ASTEP will bring requested supplies, such as warm clothes, food, batteries, cleaning materials, etc. The ASTEP office will serve as a drop-off center so please stop by Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm. We are located at 165 West 46th street, Suite 1303, NYC, 10036.
  • If you are unable to drop-off items but would like to make a monetary donation to help us purchase supplies, then please visit our fundraising page [will be hyperlinked].

We will continue to post opportunities to assist in the clean up efforts over the next several weeks. But we are also looking toward the future: as many of you know, these communities have a long road ahead of them. We want to stand with them and their children in recovering from this disaster. We are in the process of organizing long term programming in these areas so please stay tuned as we announce the specifics of working in these communities moving forward. Let us know if you are interested in being involved!

We hope that you and your loved ones are safe and warm.

— The ASTEP Team


“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.



ASTEP Volunteer Artists star in new Broadway play

ASTEP is proud to give a shout out to Dion Mucciacito and Seth Numrich, two of our amazing Volunteer Artists, who are both starring in the Lincoln Center Theater’s Broadway revival of Clifford Odet’s Golden Boy. Read the Playbill article below:

Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy, Starring Seth Numrich, Tony Shalhoub, Danny Burstein, to Play the Belasco

By Adam Hetrick
08 Aug 2012

Tony Shalhoub, Danny Burstein,Jonathan Hadary, Daniel Jenkins and Seth Numrich will star in Lincoln Center Theater’s Broadway revival of Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy, which begins previews Nov. 8 at the Belasco Theatre.

Tony Award-winning LCT resident director Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, The Light in the Piazza, Women on the Verge…), who also helmed the 2006 revival of Odets’ Awake and Sing! for LCT, will stage Golden Boy. Opening is Dec. 6.

The Belasco is where LCT presentedAwake and Sing! as well as its musical adaptation of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown in recent seasons. The Judy Garland play with music, End of the Rainbow, will end its run there Aug. 19.

Numrich, who originated the role of Albert Narraccott in LCT’s Broadway production of War Horse will take on the central role of Joe Bonaparte. He is joined by Shalboub (Lend Me A Tenor), Burstein (Follies, South Pacific), Hadary (Awake and Sing!, Gypsy), Jenkins (Big River), Michael Aronov (Blood and Gifts), Bill Camp (Death of a Salesman), Sean Cullen (South Pacific), Dagmara Dominczyk (The Violet Hour), Ned Eisenberg (Awake and Sing!), Brad Fleischer (Coram Boy), Karl Glusman (Seagull), Danny Mastrogiorgio (Stunning), Dion Mucciacito (Apple Cove), Lucas Caleb Rooney (Henry IV), Yvonne Strahovski (Finn City) and David Wohl(Dinner at Eight).

Additional casting is expected.

According to LCT, “Golden Boy is the story of Joe Bonaparte (to be played by Seth Numrich), a young, gifted violinist who is torn between pursuing a career in music and earning big money as a prize fighter.”

The production will have will have sets by Michael Yeargan, costumes by Catherine Zuber, lighting by Donald Holder and sound by Peter John Still and Marc Salzberg.

Tickets will go on sale Sept. 23 at or at A limited number of tickets priced at $32 are available at every performance through LincTix, LCT’s program for 21 to 35 year olds. For information and to enroll, visit

Click here for the complete article.


Kristen Chenoweth shares her love of ASTEP!

In rehearsals for her big 2012 concert tour, Kristen Chenoweth shares her love of ASTEP in this video with Mary-Mitchell Campbell, ASTEP’s founder and executive director, who also happens to be the music director for the tour!

Kristen has been a long-time supporter of ASTEP, joining our Honorary Board and sharing our vision of using the arts to transform the lives of children worldwide. Thanks for all the support, Kristen!



Who we are: a video snapshot!

A huge thank you to Yazmany Arboleda, an ASTEP volunteer and multimedia artist extraordinaire, for creating this colorful and enthusiastic video highlighting our programs over the years. For some of you, this will be a trip down memory lane since some of the images captured here are from the very beginning of ASTEP! Enjoy!!

Discussing the artist’s role as citizen with the Justice and the Arts Initiative at Santa Clara University

By: Mauricio Salgado, Director of Domestic Programs

From April 16-April 21 2012, I had the honor of being an artist in residence with the Justice and the Arts Initiative (JAI) at Santa Clara University. For the fifth year, JAI Co-directors and SCU Dance faculty members, Kristin Kusanovich and Carolyn Silberman (pictured left), invited me to connect with their community, which seeks to create an intellectual frame of reference for examining and fostering artistic processes that are critically bound to issues of social justice, and to support practices and methods of developing artist-activists at SCU. As usual, the experience was uniquely invigorating! Aside from the workshops I presented, I witnessed performances affirming the power of art and many one on one conversations considering the artist’s role as a citizen.

On my first morning there, I witnessed SCU’s production of “What Strangers May Know,” a play commemorating the 32 victims of the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007. The outdoor event involved  76 members of the SCU community ( students, staff, alums and faculty members), focusing on 32 separate one act plays memorializing each of the victims. Aside from immersing myself in the 32 stories, I also found myself reflecting on the culture of mourning; a thought that I continued to explore while visiting class reflections and in personal conversations with students and faculty. From the beginning, I found myself enlivened by a community that is processing profound social issues.

The next day, I led the first of two workshops exploring the empathic process and its use in community development. About 40 students participated in the workshops, where we also discussed ASTEP’s practice of using Arts Education to develop empathy in students. Most importantly, the workshops provided a space for students to consider what it means to pursue justice for the oppressed and impoverished, and how artist activists should prepare for that pursuit.

While at SCU, I also attended the 2012 Bannan Fellow Lecture by Dr. Maeve Heaney. Entitled, “Beauty and Beast; the role of the arts in Jesuit higher education,” the performance landed the importance of the arts in higher education in order to broaden intellectual capacity. I specify that the event was more of a performance than a lecture, because it included scenes, music, dance pieces, and painting. As Maeve demonstrated, singing about beauty lands the point more effectively than speaking about it – and if so, it is equally more effective at relating social injustice.

As happens each time I visit SCU, I left inspired to deepen my own understanding and pursuit of Justice and eager to relate the stories that moved me. I left ready to take the next step in helping artists strive to end poverty.


ASTEP offers leadership seminar.

ASTEP Leadership Seminar 2012

Dates: March 1-2, 2012
Location: Mertz Gilmore Foundation
218 E. 18th Street, 3rd Floor (between 2nd and 3rd Avenue)

The purpose of this seminar is to:

  • Explore the skills and abilities needed to be an effective facilitator and administrator
  • Strengthen ASTEP’s community of individuals and artists who are dedicated to using the arts for social change

Any former ASTEP On-Site-Administrator (OSA), board members, potential future OSA’s, and ASTEP staff members are invited to take part in the workshop. A formal certificate will be presented to each participant at the end of the seminar.

Agenda Day One:
(10-10:30) Welcome and Introduction
(10:30-10:45) Activity
(10:45-12:00) Communication Skills
(12-12:15) Break
(12:15-1:30) Teaching Skills: Reviewing the General Manual
(130-215) Lunch
(2:15-230) Activity
(2:30-3:30) Conflict Mediation Skills
(3:30-4) Reflect and Review
(4-6pm) Break
(6-8pm) Artistic Workshop (Led by Annika Sheaff, a Juilliard alumna and Pilobolus dancer, this workshop will explore movement and how it relates to thinking quickly, group productivity, awareness, trust, and communication. You will learn how to move your body in a new way–no prior dance training required! Get ready to collaborate, open your mind, and have fun!

Agenda Day Two:
(10:10:15) Activity
(10:15-12:15) Monitoring and Evaluation Workshop
(12:15-1) Lunch
(1-2) Group Moderation and 1-on-1 Brainstorming Workshop
(2-2:45) Review the Roles and Responsibilities of the OSA
(2:45-3) Break
(3-4) Review and Reflect: Thoughts to keep in mind
(4-TBD) Break
(TBD) Closing event

Things to Remember:
  • Please review the General and OSA manuals. If you do not have a copy of the manual, please let us know when you sign up for the workshop so we can provide you with one.
  • Please bring your potluck offering
  • Please come ready with movement attire
  • Please bring your own mug for coffee/tea/water
  • If you are running late or have any last minute questions, please contact Abby Gerdts at (603) 479.9971

To sign up, please email Mauricio Salgado at

ASTEP and The Kennedy Center. Promoting college theater nationwide.

ASTEP has been working with the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival 2012 (KCACTF), a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide, to enhance the quality of college theater in the United States.

From January-February 2012, ASTEP’s four representatives–Nick Dalton, Abby Gerdts, Alejandro Rodriguez, and Mauricio Salgado–have been presenting and running master classes at each of the eight KCACTF regional schools and at the National Festival in April 2012:

To get updates and video of their experiences, check out the links below.

Started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center’s founding chairman, the Kennedy Center American College Theater (KCACTF) is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide which has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater in the United States. The KCACTF has grown into a network of more than 600 academic institutions throughout the country, where theater departments and student artists showcase their work and receive outside assessment by KCACTF respondents.


The goals of the KCACTF are to:

  • Encourage, recognize, and celebrate the finest and most diverse work produced in university and college theater programs.
  • Provide opportunities for participants to develop their theater skills and insight; achieve professionalism.
  • Improve the quality of college and university theater in America.
  • Encourage colleges and universities to give distinguished productions of new plays, especially those written by students; the classics, revitalized or newly conceived; and experimental works.


Abby Gerdts, ASTEP’s Director of International Programs, sharing updates from the KCACTF Region 3 at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaignand KCACTF Region 7 at Colorado State University


Mauricio Salgado, ASTEP’s Director of Domestic Programs, sharing updates from the KCACTF Region 2 at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and KCACTF Region 1 at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts



Alejandro Rodriguez, an ASTEP Volunteer Artist, sharing updates from the KCACTF Region 8 at Weber State University in Utah and KCACTF Region 6 at University of Oklahoma School of Drama.