Volunteer Spotlight: Ali Dachis

 

This week, our Volunteer Spotlight is on Ali Dachis!

 

Why do you volunteer with ASTEP?
Because I believe in the transformative power of the arts. Because it makes me feel good and allows me to have personal connections with the world around me.

How long have you been volunteering with ASTEP?
Almost 7 years!

What programs have you been a part of with ASTEP?
artsINSIDEOUT, ICC, WIN, ASTEP on STAGE!, Ecuador, Artist As Citizen Conference, KCACTF, RYSA/IRC, and Hole in Wall Gang Camp. I think that’s it?

What is your favorite memory from an ASTEP program?
This year (2018) in South Africa for ArtsINSIDEOUT (2018) my 6 year olds had just made flying butterflies in our art class, and I asked them what sound do butterflies make? (Thinking they would be silent) and they made the most beautiful gentle fluttering sounds. It surprised me and brought me such joy. It’s the small things.


Thank you, Ali, for volunteering with us at ASTEP for 7 years! You have been a vital part of so many of our programs, and we cannot do our work without you!

To learn more about ways YOU can get involved with ASTEP, email Sami Manfredi at sami@asteponline.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Announcement: Fall 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship Recipients

ASTEP is thrilled to announce that Katrina Yaukey and Will Thomason have been selected as recipients of the 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship!

The Fellows will be taking the lead as Program Facilitators at our ASTEP on STAGE! sites in Harlem and the Bronx with CHOICES Alternative to Detention Programming. At this program, Will and Katrina will help ASTEP Volunteer Teaching Artists share their magic with young people who have been involved with the justice system. This program will give students the ability to share their voices and choices through the arts, all while having fun!

The Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenger Fellowship gives this unique opportunity to individuals who closely model Jennifer’s personal values and skill set and ensures all young people, regardless of their backgrounds, will experience the transforming power of the arts, much as the arts impacted Jen’s life.

“It’s an incredible and unexpected privilege to have been chosen for this fellowship. The way in which Jennifer’s family has chosen to honor her legacy with this program is a gift to so many people. It’s wonderful that Jennifer’s passion for the arts will continue to be shared by many people!”
– Katrina Yaukey, 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow



“ASTEP has easily been the highlight of my Fall. I have enjoyed playing word games in the Bronx, building relationships with high-schoolers in Harlem, and hanging out and sharing music with kids living in a residential facility next door to my apartment in Washington Heights, and all of these opportunities to share and grow are thanks to ASTEP programming. Becoming a Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow further excites and inspires me to give to these ASTEP programs. I will aspire to give passionately and compassionately, as I understand Jennifer did. I look forward to my continued involvement with ASTEP, and I thank you for making it possible to do so.”
– Will Thomason, 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Nate Rothermel

 

This week, our Volunteer Spotlight is on Nate Rothermel!

Why do you volunteer with ASTEP?
My impulse to volunteer with ASTEP has a lot to do with the fact that I identify with and champion its mission: to provide opportunity and experiences in the arts to communities and places which are impoverished of such. There is a genuine care and purpose at the core of each ASTEP program, and being a part of that and of service to that is an absolute honor.

How long have you been volunteering with ASTEP?
I have been volunteering with ASTEP for 5 years: I started volunteering with my ASTEP Chapter at Albright College my freshman year, and have continued volunteering to today!

What programs have you been a part of with ASTEP?
I have volunteered with and been the Artistic Director of ASTEP at Albright, taught in ASTEP’s Teach for India program, and am currently the President of ASTEP’s National Chapter Committee.

What is your favorite memory from an ASTEP program?
Each morning at Teach for India my students and I would walk to the classroom we utilized in their village, and along the walk we would share conversations about our days, about the differences and commonalities between India and the United States, and about our lives–hopes, dreams, stories. There’s something special about these walks and conversations, because they illuminate for me how vital it is to foster meaningfully shared experiences, and hopefully bring us one step closer to breaking the cycle of poverty existing in our world. 


Thank you, Nate, for volunteering with us at ASTEP! The initiative you take to do amazing work does not go unnoticed, and we cannot do our work without you!

To learn more about ways YOU can get involved with ASTEP, email Sami Manfredi at sami@asteponline.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to our newest staff member, Tiffany Ramos!

 

We’re excited to announce that Tiffany Ramos has joined the ASTEP staff as the Program Administrative Associate!

Get to know Tiffany in the interview below:

Where did you grow up?
Jackson Heights & Sunnyside, Queens, NYC.

Where did you work before joining the ASTEP team?
Before joining the ASTEP team I worked in an art store. I worked with teachers and prominent visual artists all around New York City.

Have you been onsite with any ASTEP programs? Which ones?
I have been onsite with a few ASTEP programs. I have taught visual art in AIA in Florida, Shanti Bhavan, and ASTEP on STAGE! at CHOICES Bronx, Lutheran Social Services, Incarnation Children’s Center, and Harlem Justice Corps.

Did you have a background in the arts or teaching, when you started?
When I first started volunteering with ASTEP I was a junior in college, I only had a background in the arts. As I was learning more about ASTEP’s programming in New York City, I sought out additional opportunities to expand my teaching skills, in order to volunteer with ASTEP on STAGE! when I was back in NYC.

What is the most challenging part of your work?
I would say the most challenging and thought provoking part of this work is going into a classroom and working as a team to figure out the specific learning and teaching structures that best fit the different learners and the teaching artists in the room.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part of my work is seeing the joy and confidence build in the students, as well as the teachers.

What do you look forward each day working with ASTEP?
I look forward to connecting communities that are unjustly underserved with artists who are passionate about their craft. I also look forward to working with all the positive energies that exist in the ASTEP office.

What song best encapsulates your working personality?
That is a really tough question. If I can, I’m going to say I don’t have one song, but I have an artist that I feel fits best and that’s Janelle Monae.

 

 

 

Singing You Home – A Benefit Album

Artists Striving to End Poverty is so proud to be a part of this new project –Singing You Home.

Produced by Laura Benanti, Mary-Mitchell Campbell & Lynn Pinto, all proceeds of this bilingual album of lullabies will be donated to RAICES & ASTEP. We hope you will join us in supporting these children and families, separated at the southern border of the United States. Learn more here.

Click here to pre-order the album.

 

 

Marcus Crawford Guy’s blog: BACK TO SCHOOL


Marcus Crawford Guy, a 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, will be sharing monthly blog posts about his experiences teaching the arts through ASTEP on STAGE! This program gives over 1,500 NYC youth access to the transforming power of the arts by bringing performing and visual artists from the Broadway and NYC community to after-school and in-school programs. ASTEP on STAGE! partners with schools and community organizations serving youth affected by the justice system, incarceration, gun violence, homelessness, immigration status, systemic poverty, and HIV/AIDS. 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.


 

Blog Post #5:

BACK TO SCHOOL

 

I remember as a child (neurotic and high strung as I was even way back then) being so challenged by the routine that school brought as I returned at the end of each summer. I longed for days where I could play as I wished, where morning bled into noon and into night and be that guided by books, games, movies or time with family and friends, it was something I missed by the time the last week in August rolled around. I went to a school where we wore uniform: shirts, ties, belted pants and black shoes… ugh. Stifling.

But as I think about many of the kids I have met this summer at ASTEP’s partner sites, I am eager for them to get back into routine, to have new structure and to be given goals to work towards. The fundamental difference between my own free time and the free time of the students I work with being that I really didn’t have anything to worry about. Structure would be provided where needed but for the most part, I had more things to do than I had things to worry about.

For our student population, the equation is typically reversed. Time off often brings up the things that are absent in their lives. I had to actively remind myself of this in all of our workshops these past couple of months – intellectually I understood their experience (with a 26 year old brain) but to be living that in the mind and body of a 7 or 8 year old is completely incomprehensible. It made me particularly aware of moments when a teaching artist couldn’t understand why the students needed so much scaffolding around a particular concept. For the most part, their days are spent off without structure – and this likely only brings their life circumstances into focus more acutely. Their creative expressions within transitional housing complexes for example, aren’t always accepted as productive and so our task is to come in and not only be the bearers of fun, but also to present the structure in which that fun will be had.

So, with school back in session, I’m excited to return to many of these sites this fall and see familiar faces with brand new energy. Granted, its usually colored with the exhaustion of learning at the end of a school day but this allows our function to be different, providing fun, freedom of expression and creativity at the end of a rigorous day, which, of course, then presents a whole other set of challenges!

 

 

ASTEP Featured on Common Good!

 

We are excited to announce that ASTEP is featured on Common Good, a new website from Newman’s Own Foundation!

This site is dedicated to sharing the powerful pursuits of nonprofits all over the world, and the everyday good that is often overlooked.

Check out our story here.

 

 

Rachel Kara Perez’s blog: Each day


Rachel Kara Perez, a 2018 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, will be sharing monthly blog posts about her experiences teaching the arts through ASTEP on STAGE! This program gives over 1,500 NYC youth access to the transforming power of the arts by bringing performing and visual artists from the Broadway and NYC community to after-school and in-school programs. ASTEP on STAGE! partners with schools and community organizations serving youth affected by the justice system, incarceration, gun violence, homelessness, immigration status, systemic poverty, and HIV/AIDS. 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.


 

Blog Post #5:

September 5, 2018

Each day

My padrino tells me, obsessing over the past is what breeds depression. Fixating on the future is what breeds anxiety. That we can only truly ever appreciate and have a life well-lived if we focus our energy on the present, allowing ourselves to be fully here and now.

In this work, and especially in this mighty city, it is easy to find excuses not to follow this thoughtful and somewhat sage advice. The trains are late, we are waiting for our next check, one of the children may be gone next week, new sets of expectations, someone is late, we didn’t get that gig…the list is long.

Working with refugee youth, and specifically unaccompanied minors during my time with ASTEP has granted me a different relationship with impermanence. It came almost all at once, as I spoke to a fellow teacher from the Refugee Youth Summer Academy about my work at our site with Lutheran Social Services. I expressed my struggle with endings, how saying goodbye (or harder still, not being afforded an opportunity to say goodbye) never got easier with this work, how I had cried and not known how to channel that sorrow after a child leaves, especially when they’ve been at LSS for a long time and then one day are just not there anymore.

The advice she gave me was a total game changer. She suggested at the end of each class I take a moment to let the children know how much they mean to me. That way, even if I don’t have the opportunity to say an individual goodbye to each of them before they leave, I can rest assured that they know how I feel about them, that I believe in them, and that I care. Little did I realize how effective this would be and also how soon I would need to say a goodbye of my own.

I am moving on from ASTEP to further my work in arts activism, working full time for an arts and social justice organization. It’s a wonderful opportunity, and yet I will miss ASTEP dearly. Of course, I will find ways to collaborate and stay connected, always.

My last day with the children at LSS  I actually didn’t have a Volunteer Teaching Artist and was able to take the lead as opposed to offering on site support. It felt fortuitous. I threw them a little party, we had snacks, listened to music, and drew together. I took the advice of my colleague, and now friend, and explained that this was my small way of expressing my gratitude. That I wanted all of them to know that they are important. That whether we have been together one day, or two weeks, or seven months, that each day is special to me, and that I will always think of them. I told them the time I have spent with them has changed my life. I thanked them for their time and for their presence. And I thank everyone at ASTEP, for your support and encouragement, for the Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship, for the honor of carrying on this work for those who no longer can. And though I must say goodbye, please accept this modest writing as an expression of my gratitude, and know that each day was special to me.

Welcome to our newest staff member, Austin Sora!

 

We’re thrilled to announce that Austin Sora has joined the ASTEP staff as the Assistant to Development and Administration!

Find out some more about Austin in the interview below:


Name:
Austin Sora

Where did you grow up? Toronto, Canada

Where did you work before joining the ASTEP team? I recently moved back to New York after living in Dallas for three years, performing with Bruce Wood Dance. Administratively, I’ve worked with The Clive Barnes Foundation, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, and Bruce Wood Dance.

Have you been onsite with any ASTEP programs? Which ones? My first teaching experience with ASTEP was teaching dance at Women in Need (WIN) as part of the ASTEP on STAGE! program. I’ve also volunteered for ASTEP at the Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA), in partnership with the IRC.

Did you have a background in the arts or teaching, when you started? I have been dancing my whole life, and I am fortunate to be able to continue doing it professionally. The first class I taught for ASTEP in 2014 was my first teaching experience! It was a wonderful introduction to teaching because I saw first hand how much the arts can empower and connect people.

What is the most challenging part of your work? The challenges of this job are in a way what I love most. I am asked to wear a lot of hats, which allows me to work in several different areas within the organization. It can be a challenge juggling a range of responsibilities, but I learn something new every day!

What is the most rewarding part of your work? ASTEP’s mission is one that I believe in strongly, and I love coming to work each day knowing that I am playing a small part in bringing the arts to so many children in the US and abroad.

What do you look forward to, each day, working at ASTEP? The ASTEP community is made up of a special group of people, whose generosity and passion inspires me each day.

What song best encapsulates your working personality? “Happy” by Pharrell Williams! 🙂

 

 

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Ring in the holiday season with us! Mark your calendars for the 10th Annual New York City Christmas: A Concert to Benefit ASTEP.

Conceived, produced and music directed by Drama Desk-nominated orchestrator Lynne Shankel (Cry-Baby, Altar Boyz, Allegiance), the evening will feature Broadway’s most sought-after talent, putting their spin on your holiday favorites. Past performers include Sierra Boggess, Raul Esparza, Derek Klena, Lindsay Mendez, Andy Karl, Orfeh, and more!

Monday, December 10
7:00PM
Joe’s Pub at the Public Theatre

Tickets: $75 | $100 | $125
SOLD OUT!
Sponsorships available at various levels

ALL proceeds from ticket and album sales will support ASTEP’s mission of connecting performing and visual artists with underserved youth in the U.S. and around the world. Together, we give kids access to the transforming power of the arts!

Click here for more information, or email Katherine Nolan Brown at katherine@asteponline.org to inquire about sponsorships.

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