Program Manager Tiffany Ramos Answers our Creative Activity Kit Questions

Tiffany Ramos holds up Creative Activity Kits

After hearing from our partners that the young people we serve were experiencing zoom fatigue from virtual learning, or had limited internet access, our Program Manger Tiffany Ramos crafted the Creative Activity Kits as a zero-technology solution. 

We asked Tiffany some questions about the Creative Activity Kits, and loved hearing their perspective on the initiative!

Why was it important to start the Creative Activity Kits initiative? 

It was important to start this initiative because at the very beginning of 2021 we were hearing from our partners how most children were experiencing zoom fatigue in virtual programming. Since school had shifted to virtual learning, some children had difficulties with access and navigation, and others were no longer feeling engaged through virtual workshops due to long hours spent in front of a device. As a result, we thought to take a zero technology approach to our programming and shift to something that engaged children more tangibly. Our Creative Activity Kits offered the magic and joy of an ASTEP classroom in lieu of in person classes, for now ASTEP classes and Teaching Artists take form in the art supplies and activity workbooks created and shared with children. Through this initiative we’ve been able to continue to bring play and social emotional learning through the arts to children throughout New York City who are more likely to have limited creative outlets. 

How do you think the kits have impacted the communities we serve? 

We have received a great amount of positive feedback from partners and children expressing how joyful children have been while completing activities and playing with their supplies. I think this initiative has had a great positive impact on the communities we serve. I know much of the supplies we have shared with children have been popular, then there’s the added bonus that students get to keep these kits making it that much more impactful. We are giving the gift of art and access to materials to fully participate in creative exploration. We hope that children get to use their supplies for the activities we provide as well as everyday entertainment and allow them the opportunity to continuously engage in creative play. 

What are your three favorite items in the Creative Activity Kits? 

My three favorite items have been a dance ribbon, because the movement is mesmerizing, and it just so happens to be one of the children’s favorite items as well. I’m also a huge fan of the play doh, because it’s a great molding tool and play doh is just so much fun to squish. My third favorite item is the spin drum because I enjoy percussion, I think it makes such an interesting sound to play with and I hope our students feel the same curiosity towards this fun noisemaker.

Any other thoughts?

While we have not been able to be onsite and share space together with children, our Creative Activity Kits have brought such excitement to our partners, students, and our ASTEP team. I think each month has been a fun mystery for our students as they receive new activities each month, and our Creative Activity Kits offer new ways for ASTEP to engage with our community. We have heard how appreciative our partner’s onsite staff members have been to have resources in the classroom for students to focus on while maintaining safety protocols. 

Click here to help us continue our Creative Activity Kits initiative.

Gift an ASTEP Creative Activity Kit!

The current state of the world has brought on unexpected challenges for our partners and the communities we serve together. Many of our students have limited access to the internet, which hinders their ability to participate in online learning. Other students have been overwhelmed by screen time and need to disconnect. On top of these challenges, access to art supplies is limited for our students.

In order to solve these problems, we are launching our Creative Activity Kits initiative!

These kits are full of educational arts-based activities that allow students to learn, express themselves, and have fun. No internet or screens are required, and all of the necessary supplies are included in the kits. Each student will receive their own kit, which they can take with them for whenever inspiration strikes.

So far, we’ve provided 150 Creative Activity Kits to our students, but we need your help to continue giving the gift of imagination in these challenging times.

  • For $25, you can send a Creative Activity Kit to an ASTEP student.
  • For $150, you can provide Creative Activity Kits to a family of six affected by homelessness.
  • For $500, you can support an entire classroom of students with Creative Activity Kits.


Donate!






Changemakers Scholarship: Apply Now!

The ASTEP Changemakers Scholarship will award six $1,000.00 scholarships, each supporting a Black student who has demonstrated leadership and a commitment to social justice. This scholarship will support the recipients’ educational journey.

Eligibility- Must be a graduating high school/alternative school senior and resident of New York City. This scholarship may be used at an accredited college, university, vocational, or technical training program. Of the six scholarships, at least one will be awarded specifically for a student attending an HBCU (Historically Black College or University). Former ASTEP students are especially encouraged to apply.

Applicants must submit either a video or an essay to answer the question: How are you an agent of transformation toward social justice? Give specific examples from your life and personal beliefs.

Submission deadline: June 1, 2021
Winners will be contacted by June 14, 2021

If chosen, winners will be asked to share their story by submitting a photo and paragraph about how the funds were used to support their educational pursuits as their testimonies help promote the scholarship fund for future applicants.

CLICK HERE TO APPLY

 

 

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.

 

 

Announcement! Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship recipients selected for RYSA 2020!

For a third year, ASTEP is honored to select two stellar Volunteer Teaching Artists as recipients of the Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship for their work with ASTEP Arts at RYSA 2020 Gladys Pasapera and Lindsay Roberts!

ASTEP provides the arts component of The International Rescue Committee’s Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA), a six-week summer camp, which supports the personal growth, cultural adjustment, and education for 2oo young people who have recently resettled in New York City (ages 4-22) and helps them successfully transition into the US school system. 

The current global health crisis has prevented RSYA from being held in person, however, ASTEP and the IRC were committed to giving these kids the RYSA camp experience, albeit digitally! Even from a distance, we can still create a space to nurture school readiness, a chance to build English language and coping skills, and most importantly, build community so they can thrive when they enter the public school system in the fall.

Lindsay and Gladys are part of a team of 9 Volunteer Teaching Artists who are introducing students to Visual Arts, Music, Storytelling, Filmmaking and Dance. Camp began this week so our team has been working hard to convert our lesson plans to a digital platform. We like to say that artists have a natural ability to be adaptable and think outside the box so our everyone is having a positive and memorable experience so far!

The Fellowship is a unique opportunity for individuals who closely model Jennifer’s values to use the arts to celebrate a young person’s strengths and build up their unique areas for growth. Through Gladys’ visual arts and Lindsay’s music classes, they will help youth affected by immigration status break down the barriers they face by building the skills they require to create a new life for themselves in their new home.


“I am very grateful to ASTEP and to the RYSA team for selecting me as one of the 2020 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellows. I look forward to sharing and creating music and memories with the students at RYSA this summer, especially as we all venture together into the unknown of digital classrooms, exploring new capabilities and reimagining thoughtful, responsive, and impactful arts education.” Lindsay Roberts, 2020 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow

“This is really exciting! I’m thrilled to be receive this Fellowship honor. I find so many similarities between Jennifer’s mission in life and my own: bringing our passion of arts education to everyone and establishing meaningful relationships. I’m excited to work my 6th summer with the Refugee Youth Summer Academy teaching Visual Art this year and continuing to bring the power of the arts to my virtual classroom. ” Gladys Pasapera, 2020 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow








ASTEP Changemakers Scholarship


We are thrilled to announce the ASTEP Changemakers Scholarship!

The ASTEP Changemakers Scholarship will award two $1,000 scholarships, each supporting a Black student who has demonstrated leadership and a commitment to social justice. This scholarship will support the recipients’ educational journey.

Eligibility- Must be a graduating high school senior and resident of New York City. This scholarship may be used at an accredited college, university, vocational, or technical training program. Of the two scholarships, one will be awarded specifically for a student attending an HBCU (Historically Black College or University). Former ASTEP students are especially encouraged to apply.

Applicants must submit either a video or an essay to answer the question:
How are you an agent of transformation toward social justice? Give specific examples from your life and personal beliefs.

Video Requirements: Must be a link (ex. unlisted on YouTube or Vimeo); Must be under 5 mins
Essay Requirements: Must be under 1,000 words; Must be in PDF format; File should be labeled FirstnameLastname.pdf
Applicants must also provide a personal reference

Submission deadline: July 31, 2020
Winners will be contacted by August 15, 2020

Click here to apply!

 

 

New Direct Relief Program: Filling the Food Gap

“You are all doing exactly what the title of your organization says that you are doing.
You are: “Artists Striving to End Poverty.”
– Judy Juster, Clinical Coordinator/After School Program Director at Abraham House

Direct Relief Program - Filling the food gap

We are excited to share the news that ASTEP has started a food distribution program, Filling the Food Gap, in partnership with the Red Hook Container Terminal and the NYCEDC. This program provides direct service, food distribution, to one of our partners Abraham House located in the South Bronx.

Over the past month, donations of fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, poultry, and meat have been delivered to support the students that we serve, as well as their families and the greater community. Many people who received food were excited by the quality of the food, as well as the fresh poultry and beef, as the majority of donations have been canned goods. With this program, we have been able to provide 3 deliveries of fresh food to over 1,800 people!

Check out this NY Daily News article that features Mike Stamatis, the owner of the container terminal, and the impact these donations have had.

To help us to continue supporting the needs of the communities we serve during this difficult time, please consider a donation to ASTEP’s Arts Resilience Fund.

Sondheim benefit concert – watch it now!

WATCH IT HERE! + DONATE TODAY!


We are grateful for the special collective of Angel Donors who matched the first $25,000 raised through this event!

Anonymous
Ben Whiteley
The Bisesto Family
Emily Grishman and Susan Sampliner
The Esposito Family

Jeffrey and Gheña Korn
Jim Jones and Joseph Langworth
Oda and Henry Sham
Sheri Sarkisian

Thanks to the incredible generosity of everyone who contributed to the Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration, ASTEP’s Arts Resilience Fund has raised $400,000 so far!

What has always made ASTEP unique is our ability to connect artists with community groups working in underserved communities. In this moment of crisis, our partners are serving youth who are navigating food scarcity, economic hardships and home safety, among a host of other issues. With these funds, ASTEP is immediately responding to the needs of these communities. In collaboration with the generosity of the Red Hook Container Terminal and the NYCEDC, ASTEP has helped to facilitate food donations to be delivered to our partner, Abraham House, in the South Bronx. The most recent donation of fresh fruit served over 900 families. There will be another generous food shipment reaching this community soon.

In this time of virtual learning, ASTEP is making sure the young people who have limited or no access to online platforms are not forgotten. We’re teaming up with teachers and schools to build English and Spanish arts packets that support social and emotional development and academic curriculum. We’re also reaching young people living with HIV/AIDS at the Incarnation Children’s Center, a pediatric residential facility, through virtual open mic nights to remind them that the ASTEP community loves and cares about them, even when we must remain physically distant. To build mindfulness and resilience, ASTEP is connecting artists around the world through live and prerecorded #artistathome series and professional development workshops.

Now more than ever, ASTEP is using the arts to create a space for healing, a platform for connectivity and an outlet to express ourselves. Serving these communities has been ASTEP’s primary mission for 14 years, and thanks to the Arts Resilience Fund, ASTEP will continue to be here for the needs of our students and our extraordinary partners, as we all learn to adapt to this precarious new reality. To contribute today, please visit give.classy.org/ASTEP.


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