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.

Announcement: 2019 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship Recipients for ASTEP Arts at the Refugee Youth Summer Academy!

ASTEP is thrilled to announce that Jasmeene Francois and Aaron Rossini have been selected as recipients of the 2019 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship for their work with ASTEP Arts at Refugee Youth Summer Academy!

In partnership with the International Rescue Committee, ASTEP leads the creative arts component for the Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA), a six-week summer camp which supports the personal growth, cultural adjustment, and education of refugee youth and helps them successfully transition into the NYC school system.

Through a team of 18 Volunteer Teaching Artists, ASTEP designs, implements and oversees RYSA’s creative arts classes, which focus on visual art, dance, music, and storytelling for 100-130 refugee youth aged 5-25 years old.

The Fellowship is a unique opportunity for individuals who closely model Jennifer’s values to use the arts to celebrate refugee youth’s strengths and build up their unique areas for growth. Jasmeene and Aaron will collaborate as co-teachers for the Storytelling Class for our youngest students in the Lower School program. Together, they will use the arts to help youth affected by refugee status break down the barriers they face by building the skills they require to create a new life for themselves in their new home.


“Thank you so much! I am truly honored to be nominated as a Fellow. I also feel honored to work with students in honor of Jennifer’s legacy. I hope to pass on the love for the arts, especially drama, to the young people we’ll be working with this summer. Thank you again so much. I am so touched by this and inspired by Jennifer’s life and work.” Jasmeene Francois, 2019 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow

“I’m honored to be named one of the 2019 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellows. Jennifer was a force for good in this world, and I humbled to carry on her legacy this summer at the Refugee Youth Summer Academy. I want to thank Jennifer’s family and ASTEP for thinking me worthy of this opportunity.” Aaron Rossini, 2019 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow

 

 

 

ASTEP Arts Camp in India!

 

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Along with providing year-round music lessons, ASTEP started and ended the summer season with a two-week arts camp at Shanti Bhavan, a school and home for disadvantaged children in India.

Held in May and then again in September Shanti Bhavan’s student body of over 200 kids, the aim of the arts camps is to encourage students to collaborate with their peers, strengthen their ommunication skills, problem solve creatively, try new things and gain confidence through visual arts, dance, theatre, and music classes and activities.

Throughout camp, students took part in a variety of activities. For example, in one collaboration class, students experimented with movement exercises that resulted in some amazing visual art!

“ASTEP Camp is the best part of the year. We get to do all sorts of crazy stuff, to do things we don’t get to do throughout the school year. I’m a music student, and I like playing the piano. Through ASTEP I have been able to improve my skills and my way of playing the piano. From camp, I learned to have an open mind, to imagine what I want. I learned from visual arts that nothing is ever right or wrong, don’t let other’s judge what you do. Be confident and do what you feel is right.” – Berkmans, 12th Grade



You can check out all of the photos on Facebook that captured our moments together but here are a few!





Thanks to our incomparable team of Volunteer Artists who made this all possible!

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2016 MAY Arts Camp

Theme: Connect, Create, Celebrate

ASTEP Volunteer Artist Team: Quinn Coughlin, Aimee Cucchiaro, Destiny Garcia, Ryan Hotes, Anna Hulse, Alexis Jenofsky, Michelle Mussett, Jason Shiuan, Jennifer Stafford, Patricia Woolsey and Ashley Monroe (Program Facilitator)



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2016 SEPTEMBER Arts Camp

Theme: “Let’s Grow”

ASTEP Volunteer Artist Team: Olivia Alsip, Jansen Bennett, Jordan Campbell, Allyse Corbin, Kaila Galinat, Marcus Guy, Patrick Heffernan, Joshua Hinck, Kelsey Lake, Marina Micalizzi, Aaron Rossini, Roschelle Spears, and Lizzy Rainer (Program Facilitator)

You are each incredible human beings!




ASTEP + Kennedy Center

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ASTEP is thrilled to partner for a fourth 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, “Serving and Leading with ASTEP” and “Owning Your Artistic Identity”, and joining a prestigious panel of judges for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. (Check out our 2013 experience!)

Presenting at the eight regions are ASTEP’s incomparable: Abby Gerdts, Ali Dachis, Aaron Rossini, and Alejandro Rodriguez

Serving and Leading with ASTEP

Artists Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP) is a New York City based non-profit that provides artists with opportunities to share their passion with underserved kids, in the US and abroad. ASTEP places volunteer artists all over the world and maintains the Future Leaders Network, a support system for young leaders in the arts, which hosts the annual Artist as Citizen Conference at Juilliard each summer and supports the efforts of ASTEP Chapters around the country. Come talk to an official ASTEP representative to find out more about how ASTEP can help you pursue your dreams of changing the world through art.

 

Owning Your Artistic Identity

What are you passionate about? What are you good at? What could the world use more of? Artists Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP) wants to help you locate the perfect intersection between your unique passion and the needs of your community. We’ll veer away from the straight-and-narrow to consider non-traditional career paths, and to help you find what resonates deepest with you in order to use it to shape your life, your art, and the world around you.