There’s a monster in there!

Aaron Rossini, a 2019 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, shares this blog post about his experiences teaching through the ASTEP Arts at Refugee Youth Summer Academy. A team of 16 ASTEP Volunteer Teaching Artists are leading the creative arts classes at the International Rescue Committee’s 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.

The theme for RYSA 2019 is PRIDE!

RYSA’s Final Week

By: Aaron Rossini, 2019 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow

Heading into the final week of RYSA is, in all honesty, bittersweet. It’s sad to know that our time with the students is coming to an end, and it is inspiring to see how much they’ve grown in what seems like such a small amount of time. I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve been able to accomplish, and I am constantly wondering whether or not we could’ve done more. It’s a strange push and pull that teachers need to live inside; we need to meet the students where they are and hope to guide them a little past their comfort zones. We accomplished so much, and it feels like we can do so much more. There is always work to be done.

I want to share three moments that define this summer for me, and I hope can offer some insight into my experience to you:

 

“I want to be a better actor, so I can be a hero.” – Lower School 3
At the beginning of every class, we ask our students to set intentions or goals for the day. Miss Jasmeene or I might ask something like: “How do you want to grow today?” or “What do you want to achieve before the end of class today?”

On our third class, the Monday of our second week, we asked our students to shout out one goal they want to accomplish. This was met with a flurry of responses, some genuine, some goofy, and one in particular stood out to me. “Mr. Aaron, I want to learn to be a better actor, so I can be a hero,” said a girl in our Lower School 3 class. She went on to say that boys always get to be the superheroes, and she wanted to become a better actor, so she could be a superhero and save the world. To anyone wondering about the value of storytelling, this young woman offered us the case in point.

 

“Can I tell him in French, so he understands?” – Lower School 2
We often break the students up into smaller, more intimate groups to work on storytelling activities. On the Wednesday of week 3, we had the students break out into three groups of 5 or 6 to work on filling out some word sheets for their Mad-Libs.

Many of the students were super-charged-up at this chance to show off their vocabulary skills. Others were a little intimidated at the prospect of coming up with Verbs, Nouns, or Adjectives. One particular student, whose primary language is French, was very overwhelmed by the activity. When I engaged with him about the task, he shut down even more. This came as a surprise to me, since I had clocked him as able to understand most of my instructions in the previous classes. I looked up for some help, and there was one of his classmates and friends with a big smile on his face, “Mr. Aaron, can I tell him in French, so he understands? Then he will be able to do it in English.”

“Of course and thank you for the help!” Relieved and rescued by a 9-year-old, I saw this young man explain the entire activity– every last detail– in French, then translate it into English, patiently helping his classmate. I was so moved by this demonstration of empathy and patience, that I almost lost track of the fact that the first boy was now deeply engaged and enjoying the activity all thanks to his friend’s compassion and understanding.

 

“Mr. Aaron, you gotta make sure there isn’t a monster in there!” – Lower School 1
There’s a fun storytelling game called “Box on a Shelf” that involves a Silent pantomime where we pull a box off of a shelf, open it, and act out what’s inside. It can be an ice cream cone or a kitten or a rocket ship, anything the performer wants to make. Toward the end of class, the final day or Week 2, I performed a “Box on the Shelf” that had a monster in it. The monster chased me around the room, and I needed to solicit help from my fellow teachers to get it back in the box. Naturally, this was a huge hit, and all the students had tons of fun. Well, almost all of the students…

The following Monday, I started the day with another round of “Box on the Shelf”. As I reached up to pull a box off the shelf, one of the students screamed at the top of her lungs, “NO! MR. AARON THERE’S A MONSTER IN THERE!!!” I stopped dead in my tracks and looked at her, “Mr. Aaron, you gotta make sure there isn’t a monster in there!” What could I do? Well, I got the whole group to circle around the box and keep their eyes peeled and their monster-catching-hands ready. Fortunately, there wasn’t a monster in the box. This time there were popsicles, and we all had a treat!

 

This was my second time as a RYSA instructor, my first time as a Lead-Teacher, and my first time working exclusively with the Lower School students. I’m grateful for my time, my students, the IRC, ASTEP, my co-teachers, my peer mentors, my teammates, and for the Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship. I hope this summer is a proper dedication to her memory, and I am honored to have shared in it.

Thank you to our 2019 Summer Volunteer Teaching Artists!

We are so grateful for our team of Volunteer Teaching Artists, who work endlessly to bring transformative arts experiences to the children we serve. Thank you for making our programs possible this summer!

ASTEP on STAGE! (June 1-July 10):
– Marcus Crawford Guy
– Will Thomason
– Mariana Fresno
– Maria Kowalski
– Angela Joy Morgan
– Ali Dachis
– Susanna Stahlmann
– Tiffany Ramos
– Grace Canahuati
– Becky Baumwoll
– Gabby Serrano
– Esme Lytle

– Kaveh Haghtalab

Shanti Bhavan:
– Marcus Crawford Guy
– Rosco Spears
– Lindsay Roberts
– Morgan McGhee
– Emily Kindred
– Evangel McVicker
– Caity Gwin
– Austen Bohmer
– Stephanie Hyde
– Michael Lunder

RYSA:
– Marissa Palley Aron
– Brigid Transon
– Jordana Rubenstein-Edberg
– Tyrone Osborne-Brown
– Leila Mire
– Kretel Krah
– Tiffany Ramos
– Ruhi Radke
– Meg Smith
– Juanita Castro-Ochoa
– Aaron Rossini
– Jasmeene Francios
– Anna Falvey
– Catt Melendez
– Maya Sokolow
– Raymundo Gutierrez
– Rachel Keteyian

Arts-in-Action:
– Adriana Ochoa
– Kelly Burns

Arkansas Pilot Program:
– Nate Rothermel
– Susanna Stahlmann
– Morgan McGhee

artsINSIDEOUT:
– Yazmany Arboleda
– Thembile Tshuma
– Stella Boonshoft
– Ryan Kim
– Violet Mmbidi
– Stompie Selibe
– Victor Geraldo Colon
– Roelf Daling
– Will Macadams
– Mosoeu Ketlele
– Kedren Spencer
– Thapelo Keorapetse Pule
– Lizzi Gee
– Shawn Mothupi
– Thembeka Mavuso
– Dumisani Khanyi
– Elia Monte-Brown
– Lorraine Ketlele
– Alannah O’Hagan
– Danny Mefford

Volunteer Spotlight: Gabrielle DiBenedetto

This week, our volunteer spotlight is on Gabrielle DiBenedetto!

Why do you volunteer with ASTEP?
The work at ASTEP combines three of my greatest passions – the arts, working with children, and helping others. I believe that performing opens so many doors for allowing children to express themselves and to learn the importance of collaboration, community, and creation.

How long have you been volunteering with ASTEP?
I just started volunteering with ASTEP in the summer of 2018!

What programs have you been a part of with ASTEP?
This past summer, I co-taught dance classes at the Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA). I have also participated in an open mic night at the Incarnation Children’s Center.

What is your favorite memory from an ASTEP program?
My favorite memory from RYSA was graduation. Seeing how much the students came out of their shells, how much more confident they were, how their personalities shined onstage made me feel like their summer at RYSA had been truly transformative. Each one of the students truly transformed something in me. I was and am so proud of them!

Thank you, Gabrielle, for volunteering with ASTEP! We cannot do this work without you!

To learn more about ways YOU can get involved with ASTEP at the Refugee Youth Summer Academy, click here.

For all Volunteer Inquiries, email ASTEP’S Manager of Programs, Sami Manfredi, at sami@asteponline.org

VOLUNTEER WITH US AT REFUGEE YOUTH SUMMER ACADEMY!

Come join us and be a part of the Refugee Youth Summer Academy – RYSA! Partnering with the International Rescue Committee, RYSA is a 6-week summer academy that welcomes youth seeking refuge in the US into their new lives in NYC. ASTEP Teaching Artists at RYSA offer classes in Storytelling, Music, Dance, Visual Arts, and Filmmaking. An ASTEP at RYSA classroom focuses on school readiness, English language skill building, and coping skills – all through the arts! Our classrooms embrace our unique differences and give students an outlet for self expression and fun, all while setting up a routine for them to be best prepared for an NYC public school setting in the Fall. Come join us and create a classroom catered to growth, acceptance, and endless possibilities! We use art as a tool to show students that they can be proud of who they are and thrive!  

APPLY NOW!

Tentative Dates: June 29th – August 16th

Application deadline: May 1st

Location: New York City

Who: You! All artists with a passion for making a difference!

People of color, LGBTQ+, those with disabilities, and anyone excited to work with us are strongly encouraged to apply.

Stipends available based on position and experience.

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

Photo by Brielle Bonetti

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Volunteer Spotlight: Gladys Pasapera

This week, our Volunteer Spotlight is on Gladys Pasapera!

 

Why do you volunteer with ASTEP? ASTEP is a unique community of artists that feeds my creative + art teacher soul! I love ASTEP because it continues to open my eyes to the power of the arts and the endless possibilities for both teaching artists and students. It helps us teaching artists develop ways to foster safe and encouraging spaces for our young artists to develop confidence and communication skills through play and artmaking. Watching young people step outside the box and let go of their fears is a priceless moment to witness.

How long have you been volunteering with ASTEP?  Since Summer of 2009

What programs have you been a part of with ASTEP?  Art-in-Action (Florida) and RYSA (NYC)

What is your favorite memory from an ASTEP program?  I have so many memories! But I recently came across some old photos from a lost USB with memories from my first RYSA summer of 2012. I didn’t know what to expect and I had little experience with English Language Learners. I taught a few projects that I was taught in high school so we started with sketchbook prompts and then plaster hands representing the students. The high school students were so honest and willing to share their truths and feelings about coming to America, the camaraderie was so beautiful!! They were also very engaged with the entire process of getting messy and playing with plaster. They had to pair up and take turns covering their hands with vaseline and then laying plaster strips to cover their hands so the cast would slide off after it was dry. Only laughter and fun filled the classroom!

Thank you, Gladys, for volunteering with ASTEP! You exude grace in the classroom and we are lucky to join forces with you. We cannot do this work without you!

To learn more about ways YOU can get involved with ASTEP at the Refugee Youth Summer Academy, click here!

For all Volunteer Inquiries, email ASTEP’S Manager of Programs, Sami Manfredi, at sami@asteponline.org.

 

 

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








THE MIDPOINT: Where are we now?

By: Marcus Guy Crawford, 2017 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow

Ok. I’ll be honest — when I saw that there were 5 full training days at the start of July for this program, I thought “What do they need to teach us that requires 40 hours of my time?” That’s more time than we’d spend actually instructing our students in the individual classrooms. It seemed so extensive and I couldn’t fathom how we’d be able to integrate all of this new information into our classrooms in the way our well-versed New York City, Dept. of Education colleagues would. The jargon, and the rigor with which it was being taught, seemed to separate me from the work I was desperate to do and had felt prepared to do.
 
But, here I am, halfway through the journey of RYSA R.I.S.E with this incredible body of students, and it’s all proving useful — some of it in small ways, others in more profound, and substantive ways, but I’m using it, it feels accessible and while it’s likely an imperfect product I’m delivering at times, it feels good to be wearing the teacher hat in a formal setting. And to be doing so with only 5 days of training vs. 4+ years (and college debt).
 
Training in hand, this week Kelsey and I dove in to tackle this large heading — Summative Assessment. Basically, we wanted to set a task that would gauge just how much our students have taken in in these past 3 weeks of class. What concepts have they held on to from our class and what skills are they able to exhibit that the program, at large, is trying to equip them with? This will help guide our second half of the course. So true to form, we put on our super academic hats, our serious faces, and played mad-libs with the kids! 
 
They loved it! Our youngest group, the Smiling Sunbeams, needed lots of scaffolds (another fancy education word, meaning support!) to help them through but they really latched on to certain ideas. Most importantly for us in the storytelling classroom imagination is a concept that the kids definitely know and love. This feels like a huge victory over iPad and game console culture. Our oldest group, the Rising Stars, knew all of the vocabulary that we had taught them, but struggled more with transferrable skills — cooperation, compromise and delegation of roles. This was a great opportunity to defer to our assistant teacher in the class, who spends the entire day with the students and could relate our learning, to those of other teachers in other classrooms. On a second attempt, they soared through the exercise.
 
 Finally — we led the Flying Arrows who had the most interesting response to the exercise. Many of the students in this class, have a very difficult time grasping the English language, while a core group of others are vocal, participatory and typically help Kelsey and I move the class along. Surprisingly, there were no spectators and everyone got involved. Our more able students took on leadership roles and made sure the large task was accomplished, while our true English Language beginners spent time searching through the words, sounding them out, using this exercise as an opportunity to be curious, to discover and to do so without feeling pressure to achieve. It was extraordinary to watch.
 
RYSA is teaching me so many things, but most importantly for this week, it was great to be equipped with the skills to actually gauge where our students are in their own process of skill-acquisition. It didn’t feel academic. It felt like I was prepared to serve the students, to witness their progress, and to talk about it with a degree of sophistication. We were told in training that we should be seeing the student, and not their trauma. I would take that one step further and acknowledge that this week we saw their growth – bright, budding and wonderful!

Week 2: Storytelling: Rapid Transformation

By: Kelsey Lake, 2017 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow

Last week, the newness of RYSA was a lot for everyone to take in! It definitely took some time for everyone to warm up to one another. Many students were shy, others stood out as natural leaders, and everybody was trying to learn so many new names!

As Week 2 comes to a close, I can confidently say that the students of RYSA have moved through that stage! They are boldly stepping into a new phase of more confident exploration and creative risk-taking in the classroom, and this thrilling new energy has led to some beautiful breakthroughs in Storytelling class.

One student’s rapid transformation sticks out clearly in my mind.

Last week, one boy (let’s call him M) came into class and did his very best to hide. He shrunk away from our silly warm ups; if he started raising his hand, he’d catch himself, his hand shooting back down again. Once, when he did speak up, his frustration with finding the English words to express his idea made him hide his head in his hands and back into the corner of the room. Marcus and I could see him following what was going on, and knew he had all sorts of thoughts and feelings about class, but we struggled to find an opportunity that could help him shine.

Then, this past Tuesday, something completely unexpected and delightful happened. Halfway through the class, it was time to “wake up” Sparkles and Spellzy, our puppet friends who have helped us learn so much about the power of imagination.

“How can we wake up and welcome Sparkles and Spellzy?” we asked.

M raised his hand! Marcus and I were thrilled to see he wanted to participate and quickly called on him.

And then, out of NOWHERE, M started to sing. He came up with a fun, short song to help wake Sparkles and Spellzy, belting it out confidently in front of the entire class. It was brilliant! We asked him to teach it to the rest of the class, and it became a fun new way to bring the puppets into the room.

Since then, M’s light has been shining so brightly. He offers creative ideas, gets up in front of his classmates to act out silly skits, and sticks it out when he struggles to find words for what’s going on in that creative mind of his!

Alongside M, we’ve seen many students take their scattered, incredibly high energies and focus them into leadership roles. Other students are taking their English language acquisition to the next level by volunteering to read our stories out loud with growing confidence! It’s incredible to see how quickly these students are learning to trust their own voices and imaginations; they all have such unique, riveting stories to tell, and I can’t wait to hear them.

 

Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship

Jen play

ASTEP is honored to announce that the Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship is now accepting applications for 2017 summer programming. This Fellowship will take place from July 1 – August 18 2017 in the position of a storytelling/theatre Teaching Artist at the Refugee Youth Summer Academy in New York City.

For the eighth consecutive summer, ASTEP will support the 2017 Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA) in partnership with the International Rescue Committee. ASTEP designs, implements, and oversees RYSA’s creative arts classes, which focus on visual art, dance, music, and storytelling for 120- 130 refugee youth aged 5-25 years old. RYSA is a six-week summer camp, held five days a week from July – August; from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and culminates in a graduation ceremony and performance for students’ families and their community.

The Fellow will be joining a team of 16 ASTEP Teaching Artists, who will lead the creative arts classes at RYSA. This Fellow will work to build English language skills, school readiness, coping and self-regulation skills within this vulnerable and underserved population——tools they need to thrive in school and to help build a new life in their new home. The Fellowship responsibilities include:

  • Curriculum building and lesson planning for three (3) classes, each to meet twice weekly.
  • Planning and teaching age-appropriate and culturally-appropriate lessons that focus on English Language skill building, school readiness, and the development of soft skills.
  • Preparing a 2-4 minute performance piece in each class, or for visual art, preparing a showcase of student artwork, to be shared at graduation on August 18.
  • Regular collaboration and communication with IRC and ASTEP staff members for a cohesive camp experience.
  • Support and implementation of camp-wide behavior management techniques in the classroom.
  • Support and implementation of both ASTEP and IRC methodology and pedagogical techniques in the classroom.
  • Implementation of ASTEP evaluation tools in the classroom.
  • Full participation in ASTEP and IRC training sessions.
  • Full participation in ASTEP post-program surveys.
  • Weekly blog post to share experience with the ASTEP community.

Applicants must have experience in teaching English Language Learners, teaching in a school environment, and teaching art in culturally diverse classrooms. This Fellowship requires complete commitment and artists must be available for all training and camp days.

The Fellow must be available for the following dates:

  • ASTEP Team Training: July 1-2, 2017 (tentative)
  • RYSA Training: July 5-7, 2017 (tentative)
  • RYSA Dates: July 10 – August 18, 2017

From July 10 – August 18, the Fellow will teach six (6) hours per week and should plan to spend at least ten (10) hours per week on site.

The accepted Fellow will receive a stipend and materials/supplies budget.

This Fellowship is named after Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger, 1976-2016, a loving soul who valued the arts. She inspired everyone she met with her quick wit, compassion for others and passion for the dramatic arts. Jennifer’s love for drama started early in life in Kansas City when at the age of four, her mom took her to the musical, Annie. The live stage and sound of music captured her heart, and the thrill of the theatre and her admiration for all things related to drama was a hallmark of her life.

The Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenger Fellowship gives this unique opportunity to someone who closely models Jen’s personal values and skill set and ensures newly arrived refugee youth will experience the transforming power of the arts, much as the arts impacted Jen’s life.

If you are interested in applying for the Fellowship, please complete the ASTEP Volunteer Artist Application, making note that you would like to be considered for the Fellowship.

** Email Aaron Rossini at aaron@asteponline.org or give us a ring at 212.921.1227 to learn more!

Deadline to apply is: April 15, 2017