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.


 

BLOG POST

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.


Purchase NYC Christmas, an Album Benefitting ASTEP!

Celebrate the holidays with your very own copy of New York City Christmas: A Benefit Album for ASTEP!

Conceived, produced, and music directed by Drama Desk-nominated orchestrator Lynne Shankel (Cry-BabyAltar BoyzAllegiance), this album features Broadway’s best singing fresh, original approaches—pop, soul, R&B, rock and more—to your favorite holiday classics, along with original songs that will get you in the holiday spirit!

New York City Christmas: A Benefit Album for ASTEP is a special labor of love created by the incomparable music director, orchestrator and arranger Lynne Shankel (Allegiance, Bare, Altar Boyz, Cry-Baby). This album features Broadway’s best singing fresh, original approaches—pop, soul, R&B, rock and more—to your favorite holiday classics, along with original songs that will get you in the holiday spirit! Each December, Lynne brings together some of the best musicians and singers in the Broadway to perform the album at the cozy and intimate Joe’s Pub in downtown Manhattan. Tickets on sale for the Dec 9, 2019 performance!

The album includes song sung by: Tony Winner Lindsay Mendez (Carousel, Wicked, Godspell, Everyday Rapture), Tony Nominee Raul Esparza (Company, Speed the Plow), Tony nominee Orfeh (Legally Blonde, Saturday Night Fever), Tony Nominee Andy Karl (Groundhog Day, Wicked, Altar Boyz, 9 to 5), Sierra Boggess (School of Rock, Master Class, The Little Mermaid), Chester Gregory (Sister Act, Dreamgirls, Cry-Baby), Sally Wilfert (Make Me A Song, Assassins, Tom Sawyer), recording artist Anya Singleton, David Josefsberg (The Prom, The Wedding Singer), Tony nominee and “American Idol” star Constantine Maroulis (Rock of Ages), Drama Desk nominee Tyler Maynard (Altar Boyz, Mamma Mia) and many more!

The album is available on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, and Ghostlight Records.

To mark the tenth anniversary, a newly recorded single “All I Want For Christmas Is You” performed by Telly Leung (Aladdin, In Transit, Allegiance), has been added to the album, which joins added singles “I Got All I Need (This Christmas)” an original song written by Lynne Shankel and Jon Hartmere sung by Lindsay Mendez and Derek Klena and a hip-hop version of “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas” (music by Shankel) sung by Aurelia Williams (Once On This Island, In Transit)Kenita Miller (Once On This Island) and Kay Trinidad (Little Mermaid) based on the traditional poem.

For additional singles, click HERE and HERE.

All proceeds from album sales support ASTEP’s mission of connecting performing and visual artists with youth from underserved communities in the U.S. and around the world. Through after-school workshops and summer camps, ASTEP uses the arts to give youth the skills they need to become the best versions of themselves. Purchase your copy today and celebrate the transforming power of the arts!

 

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

 

 

 

New York City Christmas: Save the Date!

Mark your calendars! On Monday, December 9th, this year’s New York City Christmas: A Concert to Benefit ASTEP returns to Joe’s Pub!

Conceived, produced, and music directed by Drama Desk-nominated orchestrator Lynne Shankel (Cry-BabyAltar BoyzAllegiance), this annual celebration, now in its 11th year, will feature Broadway’s favorite faces singing fresh, original approaches—pop, soul, R&B, rock and more—of holiday songs off ‘New York City Christmas’ the album, available for purchase at the concert.

All proceeds from tickets and album sales support ASTEP’s mission of connecting performing and visual artists with youth from underserved communities in the U.S. and around the world. Through after-school workshops and summer camps, ASTEP uses the arts to give youth the skills they need to become the best versions of themselves. Come join us and celebrate the transforming power of the arts!

Click here to purchase early bird tickets!

Sponsorship opportunities are available. Please email Meg O’Brien at meg@asteponline.org for more info.

To purchase your own copy of New York City Christmas: An Album to Benefit ASTEPclick here.

For additional singles, click HERE and HERE.

 

 

Firing up the engines of imagination

Jasmeene Francois, a 2019 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow, shares this blog post about her 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.

ASTEP’s Team of Volunteer Teaching Artists model collaboration during their training sessions!

Magical Play Dough

By: Jasmeene Francois, 2019 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow

How time flies!!! It is almost time for graduation and students will be showing their newly gained storytelling skills they have worked on for the past 5 weeks. This is my first experience with RYSA and I co-teach Storytelling for Lower School with the awesome Aaron Rossini. Even though I have been teaching for a few years, I was nervous about the first day of RYSA. The information we gained during the training laid a strong foundation before we started, but would I remember everything? What if I forgot the lesson plan?

However, my teaching partner, ASTEP and IRC colleagues were always at the helm with support and encouragement.

The students brought so much energy and creativity to storytelling class every time. I was able to witness many students in Lower School 1, 2 and 3 come out of their shells. There was an activity that I did during my full time theatre teaching position called Magical Play Dough and I was able to introduce and implement it for the class warm-ups. There are multiple aims of this activity. It serves as a movement activity while firing up the engines of imagination. With the Lower School classes we created rockets ships to outer space and beyond, mystical (and real life) creatures, and cars and boats to take us to our dream destinations. Usually an activity I did with the youngest of my students, I loved the enthusiasm of the older students as they molded this imaginary piece of play dough into something they might use everyday.

As the last week of RYSA draws to a close, I am full of joy and gratitude for my students, teaching partner, and ASTEP and IRC team. Thank you to the Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellowship for the incredible opportunity to work with the wonderful and
creative students at RYSA.

 

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

 

 

 

Thank you for making our 2019 Color Ball a success!

We would like to thank everyone who attended our 2019 ASTEP Color Ball at 54 Below!

Special thanks to:

2019 Color Ball Host Committee: Dr. Keith Bell (Chair), Steven Farkas,
Jaimie Mayer, Stephen Oremus, Georgia Stitt, Susan Vargo

2019 Color Ball Sponsors:
Anonymous
The Bisesto Family
Angie, Steven + Aliyah Kantor
Jeffrey + Gheña Korn
Elizabeth + Matthew Salem

 

2019 ASTEP COLOR BALL

 

JOIN US FOR OUR 2nd ANNUAL GALA + DINNER!

APRIL 29TH, 2019

54 BELOW

6:00PM VIP COCKTAILS

7:15PM DOORS OPEN FOR PERFORMANCE + DINNER

Mary-Mitchell and ASTEP will celebrate our work with this year’s Artist/Activist Honoree, Laura Benanti, for her collaboration on SINGING YOU HOME: Children’s Songs for Family Reunification, and our Partner Honoree, Lutheran Social Services of New York, for the empowering arts programs we provide for children who arrive in the United States as unaccompanied minors. Intimate, engaging, and sure to tug at your heartstrings, come celebrate ASTEP and the art that it brings to youth from deeply underserved communities in the U.S. and around the world. All proceeds benefit ASTEP’s mission of using the arts as a vehicle to teach young people the social emotional skills they need to be the best versions of themselves. The 2019 Color Ball Host Committee: Dr. Keith Bell (Chair), Steven Farkas, Jaimie Mayer, Stephen Oremus, Susan Vargo, and Georgia Stitt (2018 ASTEP Artist/Activist Honoree)

For more information, or to learn about sponsorship opportunities, contact Katherine Nolan Brown at katherine@asteponline.org or 212-921-1227.

Purchase tickets: 54BELOW.COM

*Ticket price includes dinner, drinks, and an exciting show. **VIP tickets include premium seat location, as well as an exclusive cocktail hour prior to the performance. ***Performers are subject to change.

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