New Additions to the ASTEP Staff

In this year of reflection and growth, we are thrilled to welcome two individuals into new roles within the ASTEP team: Alejandro Rodriguez and Kate Garst!

Some of you may know Alejandro, as he is a longtime ASTEPer, but please join us in welcoming him into his new role as ASTEP’s Deputy Executive Director!

Alejandro began his journey with ASTEP in 2006, at 18 years-old, as a volunteer teaching artist with the Art-in-Action (AIA) summer camp in Homestead, Florida, only half-an-hour south of where he was born and raised. After graduating with his BFA from Juilliard in 2009, he went on to coordinate both the AIA program as well as the Refugee Youth Summer Academy in Brooklyn, as well as contribute to nearly all other ASTEP offerings in a myriad of ways. In 2014, he inaugurated his own ASTEP program, the Artist as Citizen Conference (AAC), an immersive educational program that developed young artists by combining traditional arts classes and career skills workshops with speakers & panels on the subjects of citizenship, service & social justice. AAC was hosted at Juilliard  for six consecutive summers and positively impacted the lives of over 250+ young artists. He left New York in 2018 to pursue further experience in arts leadership, serving as the Associate Artistic Director of North Carolina’s premiere  professional theater company, PlayMakers Repertory. He returns to ASTEP in this pivotal time to work alongside its founder, Mary Mitchell Campbell, to help metabolize and activate the various lessons of 2020, and to assist in building a more dynamic, more inclusive, more sustainable foundation for ASTEP’s next 14 years of service.

“My journey at ASTEP has been, quite literally, from the bottom up. I’m excited to bring the solidarity I feel for all aspects of this organization — our superhero partners, our rockstar teaching artists, and of course, our incredible students — to bear on its continued evolution.” -Alejandro Rodriguez

Introducing Kate Garst, ASTEP’s new Director of Strategic Initiatives!

Where did you grow up? 
A proud Cornhusker, I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska.

Where did you work before joining the ASTEP team?
I’m departing The Atlantic Philanthropies which concluded its grantmaking of 8 billion dollars in September in alignment with the founder’s wishes to devote his wealth to the service of humanity. In the theatrical world, I worked with Jujamcyn Theaters, Stacey Mindich Productions, Korins Studio (formerly David Korins Design) and the Public Theater.

Do you have a background in the arts or teaching?
Theater has been an important part of my life since I was a child, and that passion fuels my professional life.

What is the most challenging part of your work?
I’ve never met a challenge I could walk away from.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Seeing the impact it has on people.

What about working for ASTEP are you most looking forward to?
Making an impact on the lives of children and their families. New York has been my home for 12 years, and I’m excited to join the ASTEP team who seeks to reach the children in our community through the arts.

What song best encapsulates your working personality?
All Together Now, The Likes of Us.



Get to know our new Development and Communications Manager, Dorienne “Dorie” Brown!

We would like to extend a very warm welcome to the newest member of the ASTEP staff, Dorienne “Dorie” Brown! Get to know Dorienne in the interview below:

Where did you grow up? Inglewood, California.

Where did you work before joining the ASTEP team? I have eight years of experience working with nonprofits. Prior to joining ASTEP I worked with a supportive housing organization assisting one of NYC’s most vulnerable populations move off the streets and one with life! Before that I worked with Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center, helping to produce the MAMA Festival (More Arts, More Alive Festival) and with the New York International Children’s Film Festival as a Development Assistant.

Have you been onsite with any ASTEP programs? Which ones? RYSA Graduation and ASTEP Circle of Support Carnival Day. Attending both of these events was incredible! It was exciting  to see the impact ASTEP has in the New York City community.

Did you have a background in the arts or teaching, when you started? My background is in the performing arts and working with arts organizations. I grew up doing theater. My experiences as a performer was instrumental in exposing me to different cultures.

What is the most challenging part of your work? I guess it would be explaining to people that development is not only about fundraising money but building long lasting relationships with donors who truly believe in the organization’s mission.

What is the most rewarding part of your work? Introducing the organization to new people. People are always amazed at how far ASTEP’s reach is. I love when they ask for more information on how they can become involved in supporting. I also love working with our volunteers.

What do you look forward to, each day, working at ASTEP? My ASTEP team! I love that my colleagues are so welcoming and we all are very passionate about the work we do.

What song best encapsulates your working personality? “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire. I grew up listening to this song and at every family function or party everyone was on the dance floor. It’s a happy song that brings people together. You can’t help but dance. It makes everyone feel good. That’s me at work! Upbeat, friendly and happy. We spend more time at work than with our families in some cases, so it’s important that my place of work is a happy place, at least 85% of the time.

Welcome new ASTEP staff member, Meg O’Brien!

We are thrilled to introduce you to our new Director of Development, Meg O’Brien! Please join us in giving a warm welcome to Meg!

Where did you grow up?
Dorchester, Massachusetts

Where did you work before joining the ASTEP team?
I’ve been working in the non-profit/development sector for the past three years in NYC. I ran a development department for an inner city DOE high school in East Harlem and then moved to a global NGO start-up.

Have you been onsite with any ASTEP programs? Which ones?
In the summer of 2010, I volunteered as a music teacher through the ASTEP at Refugee Youth Summer Academy. I loved it. It was one of the best volunteer experiences that I’ve ever had and am still friends with my co-teachers all of these years later.

Did you have a background in the arts or teaching, when you started?
I went to school for musical theatre in NYC and then theatre in London, pursuing that career in NYC for about 10 years. Received a degree in music from The Berklee College of Music, but switched focus to public health/human rights work after time spent volunteering and working in Zambia. At my core I will always be an artist and approach whatever work I do, in a creative way.

What is the most challenging part of your work?
I think a lot of people think fundraising is just asking people for money. I believe development work is building relationships with people. Trying to figure out who believes in the mission of the work and then allowing them to get excited that they can be a part of the process and ultimately helping to guide them to a place where they feel comfortable to support in a variety of ways.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?
When I’m able to share the story of the important work that ASTEP does to a new supporter and they are excited to become involved.

What do you look forward to, each day, working at ASTEP?
The ASTEP team has been great. Everyone brings such a high level excitement and work ethic to their roles, that it feels contagious.

What song best encapsulates your working personality?
I love “Drive” by Ben Rector or “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman. I’m not sure that they encapsulate my work personality, but I can definitely listen to them on repeat while I work!