We stand with Malala Yousufzai.

They want to make their voices heard.

They want to stand with Malala Yousufzai.

The girls who participate in our programs coordinated efforts in support of Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl activist shot by the Taliban. Through conversations led by ASTEP Volunteer Artists, these students discussed the importance of girls education, a fundamental human right that should not be denied.



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

Art-in-Action 2012 Camp Blog!

Hey everyone!

Welcome to our Arts-in-Action 2012 camp blog!

We are super excited about all the things that are going down this summer. Through this blog we can keep you all updated on performances, projects, and the daily happenings here in Homestead, Florida. There’s some beautiful creativitiy happening, and this is our way of sharing it with you all.

As a team, the volunteers and on site administrators came up with a mission statement using individual goals that represents what we hope to accomplish with the campers while we are here:

We, Arts in Action, will strive to use artistic creation to share, inspire, and supoport the lives in this community and beyond. This mission of embarking on a new journey has been at times intimidating, but together we work hard each day to make sure that these campers gain a rich understanding of what it means to be entrenched in the arts.


Week 1


Week 2


Week 3


Week 4 


Week 5 


Week 6 – Final Week 

For Yeshwini, a student at Shanti Bhavan in India, playing piano is magic!


When Mary Mitchell first came to Shanti Bhavan, she played us songs from Dhoom Machale and Titanic. I loved her way of playing the piano. I loved the way the music that she played kept my friends happy, interactive, and excited.

In my mind I thought one day, I will get to play the piano and I will be like Mary.

In the 5th grade I said to myself, “You will never get to play the piano,” and then I heard the word “piano” which distracted me from my negative thoughts. It was Mrs. Ruth asking us who wants to learn the piano. Eighteen hands shot into the air. All eighteen hands restlessly waiting to be chosen.

Then Mrs. Ruth saw me and asked, “Yeshwini, do you want to play the piano?”

My heartbeat was 5X more than the normal heartbeat. All seventeen eyes looked at me eagerly waiting for my answer.

With an excited voice, I said, “Yes!”

Then Mrs. Ruth smiled at me and wrote my name on the board. I was full of mixed feelings. I wondered how easy or difficult it is to play the piano. At 4:00 pm, Mrs. Ruth called me and told me that ASTEP Volunteer Artist Katherine would be my teacher. After my first lesson, I thought playing the piano is not as easy as you think. I walked out of the music room with a tired mind. Till now, I try my best to get to the level Mary Mitchell plays and I know I will.

— Yeshwini (7th grade SB student)


+ Visit Get Involved to learn more about our arts programs in India and how to become an ASTEP Volunteer Artist!


ASTEP volunteers celebrate with Shanti Bhavan graduates

Graduation is always an important time of year, especially for the students we work with at Shanti Bhavan in India. In addition to celebrating the graduating class, this is also a moment where they can showcase their talent and perform for the entire community. A big festive occasion!

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!!

Refugee youth explore visual art, pushing their boundaries.

ASTEP provides enriching arts education classes and workshops through the Refugee Youth Program (RYP) at the International Rescue Committee. Our programs not allow refugee youth to build confidence and a capacity for self-expression, but also break down the barriers they face by improving their English language skills, academic abilities, social and emotional behaviors, and community ties—abilities they require to create a new life for themselves in their new home. In addition, our volunteer artists serve as trusted adult role models, mentors, and educators who guide refugee youth in making healthy decisions about their futures.

We’d love to share photos from the fall 2011 visual art classes, including some of their collages and individual student photography. Creativity and energy abounds!

What’s it like to Walk in Your Shoes?

In the summer of ’96, thirteen-year-old Max Depaula, an ASTEP Alum, was asked by one of his summer camp counselors what it was like to walk in his shoes. In response, Max took off his shoes and tossed them at the counselor. The counselor tossed the shoes back and said, “You know that’s not what I mean. What’s your story, Max?”

Although Max didn’t respond initially, he went home later that day and free-wrote a six-page narrative about his journey. When he finished, he was surprised to realize that sharing his story felt good and wondered, what will happen next in my story?

Over the span of four weeks this fall, the ASTEP student and volunteer community participated in the A Story per Step Campaign by responding to different prompts and questions, including: What’s it like to walk in my shoes?

We appreciate everyone who participated, and we invite you to watch the final video from Alejandro Rodriquez, an ASTEP Volunteer. It includes a compilation of the voices and stories shared by the ASTEP community.


• • • •

Below are several stories from volunteers and students who participated in the A Story Per Step Campaign. They were responding to certain questions and prompts, such as “When is the first time art rocked your life?” or “Tell us a super funny ASTEP story”. More stories and accompanying videos will be posted in the weeks to come!

The first time art rocked my life was, well, always. I do remember a specific moment, when I was about three, that I got a new pair of dress shoes. I remember they were very shiny, but more importantly that they made noise whenever I walked. I wore these new shoes to church one day, and the church had wooden planks on the floor. I’m not sure how I made my way there, but I ended up standing in the center row between the pews during the service, and I just tapped for all I was worth. I was so excited that my shoes made noise that I would not stop, and my aunt had to scoop me up and run out of the church with me under her arm. My mom always tells me that this was the day she realized she’d have to pay for me to take dance lessons so that I would stop ruining new shoes and church floors.   — Elisabeth Rainer, ASTEP Volunteer

When art rocked my world it was literally my first day of Art in Action 2006. I remember like if it was yesterday. I was put in a group with four other students and a facilitator (Johnny). Our group had to come up with a group name and a dance (mind you, as a child I loved coming up with my own songs and dances), but the song and dance my group came up with was a silly one: we named our group “tiki bananas” inspired by the “Traketeo” and the bananas sitting on the Traketeo. Our dance was a mixture of air guitar (Manny’s idea) and monkey arms…LOL. At first I thought it was all wrong and that we would be made fun of when we shared it with the camp. Turned out I was wrong. Everyone loved it, and I then realized we made art.  — Erica Morillo, ASTEP Art-in-Action student

It was 8 pm, and we had dancing class. Allie and Ashley were teaching us. We started our class with practicing and getting funky. We were going to dance to “Thriller.” Babu, the eldest member of the class, was just too excited to dance. He thought to himself that he could become the next M.J. He had high hopes that he would master this dance. We started learning the dance. Babu was in the first row. Allie and Ashley lifted one leg straight up in the air and told us to do it. Babu forgot that his pants were too tight for him and were made of very thin material. He lifted his leg as high as he could. Suddenly something tore! Everyone looked down to see Babu’s pant torn, and Babu lying flat on the ground groaning in pain! For the rest of that class, Babu had to sit and look at everyone else dancing, and we could see the sadness on Babu’s face.  — Vijay Kumar, ASTEP student at Shanti Bhavan, 10th grade 

A transformation story: from ASTEP student to volunteer artist

JP Pimentel moved to Homestead Florida in 2006. To help keep him busy, and meet new people, his mother enrolled him in the first ASTEP Art-in-Action Experience for high school students. Since then JP and ASTEP have been inseparable. He has attended every summer program, has been a part of the ASTEP Group Leadership program and has volunteered his talents at countless community events. Now, JP’s love for the arts has taken him to even higher heights; graduating from Homestead Senior High with top honors and coming to New York City to attend AMDA.

The following video is an interview with JP taken in 2009 at the ASTEP Art-in-Action Experience.