Good luck, Mauricio! We’ll miss you!


A letter of gratitude

My dearest ASTEP community,

As of July 24, 2014, I will be transitioning out of my position as Director of Programs for ASTEP in order to pursue a Masters in Divinity at Union Theological Seminary. I’ve spent the last 10 years learning from and with you about the role of Art in the pursuit of justice in our society. I am now looking to explore the role that creative believers in the divine can play in that same pursuit.

Like all of you who have stopped at ASTEP’s cross section of art and social justice in order to re-think, reconnect, and re-energize—I too am full to the brim by my ASTEP experiences and am ready to take forward what I’ve learned from all of you.

Thank you.

In 2011, ASTEP ran the “A Story Per Step Campaign,” where we asked all of you to reflect on what it was like to walk in your shoes and with ASTEP. In closing the campaign, Alejandro Rodriguez wrote a poetic medley capturing bits from all of your stories to honor our collective journey.

That poem is the best way to capture what my time has been like with ASTEP.

Take a ride,
I’ll tell you about a cheeseburger that lives inside,
about being denied,
about being caught with an open fly;
about knowing that success means understanding that we tried.

Take a ride,
to the moment that the magic hit you.
Every moment that you practiced,
learning to play like Mary-Mitchell;
with the same brilliant flare –
Or a story about ximena with the wind blowing in her hair.
About being drunk on life,
feeling god is everywhere;
about laughing with our friends when we saw a pooping bear.

And I’m not kidding.

I can tell you stories about too much hot pudding;
so much, we almost hack it.
About embodying a courage we know is everlasting,
and when we do,
knowing that it is sweeter than even the taste of mustard packets.
And bellies laughing – cackling,
so much that they almost burst.
Kicking and ripping, uh oh! fearing for the worst.
Wondering out loud, “whether to curse or not to curse…?”

You want more?
Hows about a story about a revolutionary war.
A nerdy teacher you adore,
or a cap gun that is broken,
thanking god for Dylan Moore!
And i mean really,
for really really –
like a one legged deck swapper wondering what the dilly,
or tapping in the center isle finding substance in the silly.
Like beauty in a rose,
or milk in our nose,
or a concert with a rapper who mostly wants to pose.

So I thank you in the only way i could,
cause you gave us even more than we hoped you would;
stories about lost hoods and forgotten woods,
about working for the good of change and about changing for the good.
And I reckon that I got much more to mention;
getting jiggy with some stranger,
singing songs about digestion…

But before I end it,
I just thought i might mention,
thanks for taking a step [with me] –
in the right direction.

Art-in-Action 2014 Camp Blog!

AIA 2014_Week 3_3w

Hey everyone!

Welcome to our Arts-in-Action 2014 camp blog!

Led by a team of 14 Volunteer Artists, ASTEP and our partner, enFAMILIA, are in the middle of Art-in-Action, a 5-week arts camp that brings a dynamic visual and performing arts experience to over 100 youth from the immigrant and migrant communities of Deep South Miami-Dade. Art-in-Action is all about providing a safe space for high school and middle school youth so they can come together to create, develop artistic skills, and grow personally and emotionally.

Students sign up for a variety of classes, including Music, Drama, Dance, Visual Art, and Musical Theater. A few of the elective classes that were offered featured Screen Printing, Clowning, Poetry, and Breakdancing. Stay tuned for weekly updates full of photos, videos, and testimonials!


Week 1

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Week 2

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Week 3

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Week 4

AIA 2014_Week 3_1w


Week 4

AIA 2014_Week 5_6w


** None of this would be possible without the dedication and talent of our amazing Volunteer Artist Team:

Aaron Anthon (Visual Art), Cessa Betancourt (Dance), Elise Conklin (Music), Laura Estep (Events Coordinator), Devon Fitol (Dance), Allison Gibbons (Dance), Raymundo Gutierrez (Music), Kelcie Miles (Theatre), Tiffany Ramos (Visual Art), Ximena Salgado (Assistant Program Facilitator), Damian Santamaria (Visual Art), Linnell Truchon (Theatre), Blake Wales (Theatre), and Andre Webb (Music).

Also, a BIG thank you to all of our supporters and donors, especially Southwest Airlines, which directly supported the 2014 Art-in-Action Summer Camp!

  Southwest Airlines is proud to be a partner of ASTEP. At Southwest Airlines we strive to make a positive difference in the communities we serve.”

Third year partnering with The Kennedy Center!

ASTEP is thrilled to partner for a third year with the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (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.

ASTEP will be leading two workshops, “Time to Make a Change” and “Living Outside the Box”, highlighting creative ways to use the arts to transform lives and communities. In addition, ASTEP will be joining a prestigious panel of judges for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. (Check out our 2013 experience!)

ASTEP’s presenters at each of the eight regions:

Abby Gerdts, ASTEP’s Director of Programs

* Saginaw Valley State University – Region 3 (Jan 7-11)

* Boise State University – Region 7 (Feb 17-21)


Mauricio Salgado, ASTEP’s Director of Programs

* West Chester University of Pennsylvania – Region 2 (Jan 14-18)

* University of Nebraska-Lincoln – Region 5 (Jan 19-25)

* Hyannis, MA – Region 1 (Jan 28-Feb 1)


Ali Dachis, ASTEP Volunteer Artist

* Hollins University – Region 4 (Feb 4-8)


Alejandro Rodriguez, ASTEP Program Coordinator

* Los Angeles Theatre Center – Region 8 (Feb 12-15)

* Centenary College of Louisiana – Region 6 (Feb 25-Mar 1)

Actors! Are you interested in doing an Equity Showcase with ASTEP?

Unpacking Home_2

Unpacking “Home”

ASTEP has partnered with La Guardia Performing Arts Center and Kingsborough Community College on a service-learning project that will culminate in an interactive performance on November 6-9, 2013 in NYC. The project is called Unpacking “Home” and will include volunteer experiences at NYC homeless shelters for a cast of 16 artists between the ages of 20-30 years old.

The ensemble will volunteer at partnering homeless shelters in NYC to explore and better understand the meaning of “home” and why we choose to be without it; or what it feels like to have it taken away. The ensemble will then devise a play using material gained from their volunteer experiences.

Ensemble members will co-create the play so ASTEP is recruiting artists who enjoy improvisation and collaboration.

Dates: September 27 – November 9, 2013


  • September – November
  • Location: La Guardia Community College and Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn


  • Tuesday or Wednesday (once a week) in Manhattan and Brooklyn


  • November 6-9, 2013
  • Location: TBD

Audition Workshop:

  • September 19, 2013 from 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
  • Location: La Guardia Community College, 31-10 Thomson Ave, C Building, Room 401, Long Island City, NY. (Last building before the walking bridge to Court Square.)

This is an Equity Showcase contract. Stipend included.

Please email Mauricio Salgado, ASTEP Program Director, at for more details.

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Rocking out with refugee youth in NYC – RYSA Camp Blog!

Led by a team of 11 Volunteer Artists, ASTEP provided engaging creative arts classes during the Refugee Youth Summer Academy in partnership with the International Rescue Committee. 122 students experienced daily Visual Art, Story-telling, and Dance classes and on Fridays, took part in Field Trips to cultural locations in NYC, such as a special day at the Museum of Modern Art. The focus of ASTEP’s art programs are to provide refugee youth with a creative space to develop artistic abilities, strengthen their English language skills, build confidence, and transition to their new home.


ASTEP Volunteer Team

This fun video introduces you to our Volunteer Artist Team who dedicate their time and talent to the kids we serve! We couldn’t do this without them: Taylor Colleton, Max Freedman, Kelsy Henderson, Zoe Kumagai, Danielle McIntosh, Molly Page, Gladys Pasapera, Autumn Potter, and Anna Snapp.


Weekly Update


Weekly Update


Weekly Update


Weekly Update


Closing Video


Displaying the visual art portrait projects


Rehearsing the play that they wrote on their own!


Rehearsing the dance piece for the final performance!


Showcasing their large-scale artwork!

Second year partnering with The Kennedy Center!

ASTEP is thrilled to partner for a second year with the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (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. ASTEP will be leading two workshops, “Artist as Citizen” and “Devising with ASTEP”, and joining a prestigious panel of judges for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. (Check out our 2012 experience!)

Artist as Citizen

Do you believe in the power of Art to transform communities? This interactive workshop will focus on how we can delve beyond our technical training to harness our collective power and begin to build a space where everyone’s stories can be heard. Together, we will explore how we can use our craft as a means of ensuring the strength of our communities, our culture, and the future of the American theater. Come and reclaim ownership of your own artistic fulfillment.

Devising with ASTEP

ASTEP artists live at the intersection of the Arts and Global Justice. In this workshop, we’ll be building original pieces of Devised Theater using ASTEP’s unique process-oriented approach. Drawing from your own personal experiences and ideas, a few inspiring prompts, and techniques for devising that an ASTEP facilitator will guide you through, participants will create pieces around a common theme.


We’re mid-way through the festival! Sharing updates from each of the eight regions visited so far are returning ASTEP team members:

Abby Gerdts, ASTEP’s Director of International Programs

* Saginaw Valley State University – Region 3 highlights

* American River College – Region 7 highlights


Mauricio Salgado, ASTEP’s Director of Domestic Programs

* University of Nebraska-Lincoln – Region 5 highlights

* Cape Cod Community College – Region 1 highlights

* Los Angeles Theater Center – Region 8 highlights


Nick Dalton, ASTEP Volunteer

* Towson University – Region 2 highlights

* Darton College – Region 4 highlights


Alejandro Rodriguez, an ASTEP Volunteer Artist

* Centenary College of Louisiana – Region 6 highlights


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


A Journey to College: a one-act play

In the summer of 2011, ASTEP Volunteer Teaching Artist, Meera Kumbhani, wrote a one-act play titled, Journey to College. It was performed at the final performance of ASTEP’s Art-in-Action summer camp by Loni Mbele, Jairo Avila, and Ashley Perez. The piece highlights the challenges encountered by a diverse cross-section of youth in South Florida in their efforts to go and stay in college. A college sophomore seeking leniency from probation; a high school senior hoping her mom will support her aspirations; and a college junior demanding that more be done to educate students about what it takes to go to college.

Thanks to a grant by the Florida College Access Network, Journey To College has been performed six times since the summer of 2011. Aside from the initial performance during Art-In-Action, the piece was performed for School Board members, the Homestead City Council, and other visiting non-profit directors. The performance has been received positively by all of its audiences and has found new life thanks to a grant from the Florida College Access Network. ASTEP and enFAMILIA have recruited a new company of performers from the community of youth we work with! The grant will also go to funding a translation of the play into Spanish, and 3 performances (both English and Spanish) between November and March of 2013.

The following videos capture the transformative days of rehearsals.

Rehearsal 1:

Rehearsal 2:

Rehearsal: 3

Offering a safe space to heal.

In response to a recent shooting within the community ASTEP supports in south Florida, ASTEP and our partner, enFAMILIA, facilitated a workshop for the youth in the community to explore the power of destruction and creation and to offer a safe space to heal.

This video follows the students on their journey.

Thanks to Yazmany Arboleda, ASTEP Volunteer Artist, for helping lead the workshop with Mauricio Salgado, ASTEP Director of Domestic Programs!