One lucky koala

Karina Sindicich, a Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, will be sharing blog posts about her experiences teaching with ASTEP through our NYC program, ASTEP on STAGE!. This program give children 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 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.



There is no hiding the sheer JOY I feel every time I see my name signed up on the ASTEP program calendar! This fall was no exception, as I have been placed for the next few weeks in a program at a WIN site! YAY! ***Cue fireworks***

Walking toward the WIN site on my first placement back for the fall, I am excited and a little nervous, trying to sort out all the jumbly thoughts in my head. Do I have enough sharpened pencils? Is the speaker charged? What if we run out of paddle-pop sticks? All those wriggly thoughts that squirm their way inside your head and have a habit of putting you outside yourself and out of the moment.

However, there is no mistake that whenever the delightful ASTEP Volunteer Teaching artists and myself open the doors to the community room on site and see the students smiling faces and hear the shouts of glee as they exclaim “YAY, ASTEP!”, all those thoughts about getting things “right” just float away and a warm feeling of gratefulness washes over me, bringing me back to the present.

The next couple of hours go by like the blink of an eye and are filled with learning, sharing, laughing and dancing together! We all do some moving and grooving on our feet, creating our own unique choreographed dances with zumba, and after, make our way to our tables where we engage in some creative craft and make some fun art pieces for ourselves or those we love!

As we glue, tape, draw and color, gradually bringing our art to life, before we know it, it’s time to go! We sit down for our final goodbye and high five one another, thanking each other and our wonderful teachings artists for the sparkle they brought to our day!

As I walk home with an extra skip in my step, my soul is overflowing with gratitude for the day I’ve just gotten to be a part of. As always, the privilege of working for ASTEP puts so many happy thoughts careening through my head like, that was so much fun! Those young people are so super talented and open! Doesn’t art make everything feel so much brighter!? When I get home, I can’t wait to look at my calendar and scan down to the date next week when I get to do it ALL OVER AGAIN! I am one very lucky koala indeed.

Announcement: Karina Sindicich named the 2019-2020 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow for ASTEP on STAGE!

ASTEP is thrilled to announce that Karina Sindicich has been selected as a recipient of the 2019-2020 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship for her work with ASTEP on STAGE!

ASTEP on STAGE! connects Volunteer Teaching Artists with schools and community organizations to bring the transformative power of the arts to children and young people throughout NYC. In collaboration with our partner organizations, ASTEP on STAGE! brings the arts to youth affected by the justice system, incarceration, gun violence, homelessness, immigration status, systemic poverty, and HIV/AIDS.

The Fellowship is a unique opportunity for individuals who closely model Jennifer’s values to use the arts as a vehicle to teach youth the social emotional skills they need to be the best versions of themselves. Karina is a professionally trained and working actress who can also pass the time by working as a clown (yep), children’s educator and physical theatre performer!

As a Program Facilitator for ASTEP on STAGE!, Karina will be serving at two locations: a transitional housing facility in Brooklyn for youth affected by homelessness, and at a community center in the South Bronx for youth whose families have been affected by the justice system. Thanks to her leadership, Karina ensures that our students are provided a safe, fun space where they can explore their voices and build their collaboration, problem solving, and communication skills using the performing and visual arts.

“What an INCREDIBLE, BEAUTIFUL, EXTRAORDINARY soul Jennifer must have been to shine SO BRIGHT and bestow that beautiful spark to others! I am beyond grateful and so inspired to be standing in the shadow of Jennifer’s legacy. It fills my heart and soul deeply to receive this fellowhip in her name. I love nothing more than sharing and teaching the arts to others and have dedicated my life to it. — Karina Sindicich, ASTEP Program Facilitator and 2019-2020 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow




Volunteer Spotlight: Karina Sindicich

This week, our Volunteer Spotlight is on Karina Sindicich! Why do you volunteer with ASTEP? I volunteer with ASTEP for so many reasons!! ASTEP is such an incredible organization, and with the many groups that they reach out to, you can really feel the actual effect and benefit of our time together. But it isn’t just the youth I’ve worked with, (in Brooklyn, India, Harlem) but the other volunteers and staff create such a warm and loving community for each other!! You feel valued and loved as an artist and human, and you’re fully encouraged and supported to share the best of yourself in every moment!! ASTEP cares wholeheartedly about each community they work with and work hard on bringing artists that serve each community’s needs in the best way possible!! How long have you been volunteering with ASTEP? I have been lucky enough to be volunteering with ASTEP since April of [last] year! And I don’t think I’m ever gonna stop! 🙂 What programs have you been a part of with ASTEP? I have volunteered as a part of the WIN shelter programs, CASES program and I was honored to be a part of the Shanti Bhavan program in India of June [last] year! We were in SB for nearly a month, teaching all different kinds of arts programs for the graduation showcase! It was and always will be, one of the most treasured and life changing moments of my life! What is your favorite memory from an ASTEP program? There are so many!!! But I think one of the major highlights for me would have to be watching the graduation showcase in Shanti Bhavan [last] year. Watching the children perform in front of Dr. George, their teachers, family and friends was incredibly emotional for me! You see all these exceptionally bright, talented and beautiful children whom you’ve gotten to know so well over the last few weeks, and seen work so hard, be able to own their talent and shine so brightly in front of all their peers! It was truly something so special and I hold the experience very dear to my heart. I will never forget it! I hope to watch many more graduation showcases in the future 🙂

Thank you, Karina, for volunteering with us at ASTEP! Your warm, generous and positive energy makes everyone smile! We cannot do this work without you.

To learn more about ways YOU can get involved with ASTEP at Shanti Bhavan, click here.

For all Volunteer Inquiries, email ASTEP’S Manager of Programs, Sami Manfredi, at