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








Volunteer with ASTEP in NYC!

Every week ASTEP Volunteer Teaching Artists join the ASTEP on STAGE! Team to share their artistic power! ASTEP on STAGE! is a way for artists who have some time on their hands to contribute and volunteer with youth that have little to no access to the arts. ASTEP on STAGE! is a bridge to close the gap between artists and students! Together we focus on spreading the knowledge, imaginative power, and exploration of the world through the arts! 

Our programming runs year round with multiple partnering sites that focus on bringing Music, Dance, Visual Art, and Theatre to our communities all around New York City! You can find ASTEP working with amazing community organizations who offer a powerful support system and significant resources to underserved communities in Flatbush, East New York, Sheepshead Bay, Mott Haven, Harlem, and Washington Heights.

ASTEP partners with community organizations that are deeply committed to serving vulnerable and underserved communities throughout New York City, including youth affected by the justice system, immigration status, homelessness, HIV/AIDS, and systemic poverty.

As a Volunteer Teaching Artist you may find yourself leading a workshop in your specific artistic field, taking part in an exciting day of fun and games, or showcasing your astounding talents in an evening full of inspiring performances! Our ASTEP on STAGE! Volunteer Teaching Artists work to empower students throughout New York City to build life skills, learn to creatively problem solve, explore various art forms and activities, and find confidence in their voice and choice

INQUIRE NOW!
TENTATIVE DATES: Ongoing
LOCATION: Brooklyn, South Bronx, and Manhattan
People of color, LGTBQ+, those with disabilities, and anyone excited to work with us are STRONGLY encouraged to apply.
Training Provided.

Email Monique Letamendi at monique@asteponline.org or call (212)921-1227 to learn more information!

 

 

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

 

 

 

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.

Volunteer Spotlight: Gabrielle DiBenedetto

This week, our volunteer spotlight is on Gabrielle DiBenedetto!

Why do you volunteer with ASTEP?
The work at ASTEP combines three of my greatest passions – the arts, working with children, and helping others. I believe that performing opens so many doors for allowing children to express themselves and to learn the importance of collaboration, community, and creation.

How long have you been volunteering with ASTEP?
I just started volunteering with ASTEP in the summer of 2018!

What programs have you been a part of with ASTEP?
This past summer, I co-taught dance classes at the Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA). I have also participated in an open mic night at the Incarnation Children’s Center.

What is your favorite memory from an ASTEP program?
My favorite memory from RYSA was graduation. Seeing how much the students came out of their shells, how much more confident they were, how their personalities shined onstage made me feel like their summer at RYSA had been truly transformative. Each one of the students truly transformed something in me. I was and am so proud of them!

Thank you, Gabrielle, for volunteering with ASTEP! We cannot do this work without you!

To learn more about ways YOU can get involved with ASTEP at the Refugee Youth Summer Academy, click here.

For all Volunteer Inquiries, email ASTEP’S Manager of Programs, Sami Manfredi, at sami@asteponline.org

VOLUNTEER WITH US AT REFUGEE YOUTH SUMMER ACADEMY!

Come join us and be a part of the Refugee Youth Summer Academy – RYSA! Partnering with the International Rescue Committee, RYSA is a 6-week summer academy that welcomes youth seeking refuge in the US into their new lives in NYC. ASTEP Teaching Artists at RYSA offer classes in Storytelling, Music, Dance, Visual Arts, and Filmmaking. An ASTEP at RYSA classroom focuses on school readiness, English language skill building, and coping skills – all through the arts! Our classrooms embrace our unique differences and give students an outlet for self expression and fun, all while setting up a routine for them to be best prepared for an NYC public school setting in the Fall. Come join us and create a classroom catered to growth, acceptance, and endless possibilities! We use art as a tool to show students that they can be proud of who they are and thrive!  

APPLY NOW!

Tentative Dates: June 29th – August 16th

Application deadline: May 1st

Location: New York City

Who: You! All artists with a passion for making a difference!

People of color, LGBTQ+, those with disabilities, and anyone excited to work with us are strongly encouraged to apply.

Stipends available based on position and experience.

Email Sami Manfredi at sami@asteponline.org or give us a ring at 212.921.1227 to learn more!

Photo by Brielle Bonetti

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Week 5: Successes Large + Small


By: Marcus Crawford Guy, 2017 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow

Success at RYSA comes in all forms: students standing quietly in a circle; hearing a student’s voice for the first time; or bringing a student back to neutral after an experience that has triggered something traumatic, and often yet to be articulated or grasped. Our students are brave in ways I will never be — their early childhood experiences have shaped them sturdily and as much as I hope I have impacted their young lives in America, I know that they have affected mine immeasurable. Today one of our assistant teachers (tactlessly, I might add), told the students that the end was nigh… and while I think the language barrier protected many of them from this truth, it got me thinking about their triumphs and there are a few I want to document because they were moments where I too was learning.
 
A student in our youngest group (we’ll call him Austin) has been engaged since day 1. Sometimes Austin wanders, sometimes he is a little despondent and at times he has acted out, but his intention has always been clear — he wants to learn, even when that process is challenging. Today Austin was full of beans – unable to stand still, incredibly verbal and just a little hyper. In spite of this, he was engaged more than he has ever been in the classroom. The excess energy and noise was not problematic because, though untamed, it was allowing him to engage in the work and demonstrate knowledge in a new way. Kelsey and I worked with it, acknowledging that though the behavior will eventually need corrected, it was better to celebrate the positive improvement in his work. The skills can’t coalesce all at once and that’s OK! It strikes me just writing this that this is a lesson I need to teach myself in my own professional and creative endeavors – thanks Austin!
 
Next up: Corey. Corey is incredibly sensitive. The slightest sense of negativity or disappointment from a teacher will send him spiraling – he huffs, he needs to leave the room, he cries and he shuts down. But I think it is born of a pressure that I have noticed in many of our students — a need to impress, to embrace this new opportunity and to succeed, with positive reinforcement, in every moment. I can relate to this. An over-achiever from a very young age, the most potent moments of my young life, even now, are the ones where it feels like I am on the brink of letting someone down that I respect. For me, it is important to just keep Corey involved, to take his answers even when they are incorrect, and to listen to him offering correction, redirection and opportunity where possible. Corey is an active learner, and so when he is left to sideline, or his behavior is treated as “bad” or “disruptive”, he recedes and regresses. The arts classes at RYSA allow us the time and space to celebrate these differently able learners and engage them in ways the traditional classroom may not.
 
Finally, there’s Bethany. Bethany started class today with a statement not dissimilar to, “This class is rubbish!” If an adult spoke to me with this apathy, I’d likely walk the other way, but in the classroom with young students, its an invitation to engage more carefully with that student’s experience. What is this a reaction to? And how can I, the teacher, or leader in this environment, guide this student towards success, achievement and growth that will alter that negative response? I let her know how that made me feel, and asked the entire class to engage in one particular value of the RYSA program — respect. As soon as Bethany sat down today, I verbally narrated all of her positive behaviors, making clear that her successes were not going unnoticed. I respected her adherence to the classroom code of conduct, and in turn, she respected the work we were doing. She participated thoughtfully, and though she might not admit it herself, she even cracked a smile and enjoyed herself! This small interaction reminded me that it is much easier to engage with students with positive attitudes, but that good behavior + work can be culled from any student and it is the teacher’s duty to find a way to activate this kind of positive teacher-student relationship, even when resistance is offered.
 
The RYSA experience is so much larger than the classroom spaces we occupy for 6-8 hours a week. For me, it has sparked a continual assessment of the way I engage in all of my professional and creative interactions. Am I present? Am I positive? Am I willing? And can I do more? The answer to all of these questions always has to be yes, especially when I am in the drivers seat and a young person’s education, development and growth is in my hands.

Week 4: “I-We-You” Learning Process


By: Kelsey Lake, 2017 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow

This week at RYSA included a few challenging moments but culminated in some exciting and encouraging progress. Marcus and I were very excited about the prospect of our classes working as teams to create stories on their own. We wanted to see at what degree of independence they could accomplish this is at the RYSA graduation performance. So, we gave them a Mad Libs type story structure, set a five -minute time limit, and for the older students told them they had to complete the group story without communicating verbally.

We had practiced filling out Mid Libs-style sentence stems and stories together as a class, but we didn’t realize that the task we actually set for the students was one they didn’t have much practice with – working as a team, without teacher supports, in the specific context of Storytelling class. The class quickly got a little chaotic: there was conflict between students, confusion about how to complete the task, and frustration as some students took leadership roles while others felt excluded and shut down.

Yikes! We let the timer run out and decided to spend time reflecting on “what went well” and “what could go better next time.” Most of the answers received – “listening to the teacher,” “doing better next time,” “not talking” – were rote responses about classroom behavior, instead of the reflection on teamwork that Marcus and I were driving towards.

Once Marcus and I had a chance to reflect, we realized we had set a task that many adults find difficult to achieve. Though we still believe firmly in the students’ ability to work as a team in Storytelling class, we realized also that we’d skipped an essential step of the “I-We-You” learning process. In fact, we had jumped all the way to the “You” phase, asking them to independently model a task and demonstrate comprehension of a concept that we hadn’t explicittly modeled ourselves or practiced with them in class activities.

So, for Thursday’s class, we decided to take a conscious step back and focus on reinforcing the storytelling and language concepts we’d been working on, but also including conversations, observations, and examples of how being part of a class was similar to working on a team – it includes compromise, respect, and listening as essential ingredients.

We temporarily lost sight of a main RYSA objective – to help students develop interpersonal skills. To get back on track, we made such skills part of our process, instead of expecting them to magically appear in class without practice or exploration. Students started embodying these teamwork principles in different ways; one very prominent example was the students putting their hands down after another classmate was called on, showing respect and giving space for other ideas. These small moments at RYSA are actually the big victories, helping students understand “school rules” from a perspective of teamwork and leadership skills, instead of just learning rules by rote.

As we helped the students learn, we had breakthroughs as educators. Sometimes, for one step forward, you take two steps back. But, if you refocus on the learning process rather than any products you’re driving towards, students and teachers together can grow in their understanding of teamwork and leadership skills in the classroom.

 

 

 

Week 2: Storytelling: Rapid Transformation

By: Kelsey Lake, 2017 Jennifer Saltzstein Kaffenberger Fellow

Last week, the newness of RYSA was a lot for everyone to take in! It definitely took some time for everyone to warm up to one another. Many students were shy, others stood out as natural leaders, and everybody was trying to learn so many new names!

As Week 2 comes to a close, I can confidently say that the students of RYSA have moved through that stage! They are boldly stepping into a new phase of more confident exploration and creative risk-taking in the classroom, and this thrilling new energy has led to some beautiful breakthroughs in Storytelling class.

One student’s rapid transformation sticks out clearly in my mind.

Last week, one boy (let’s call him M) came into class and did his very best to hide. He shrunk away from our silly warm ups; if he started raising his hand, he’d catch himself, his hand shooting back down again. Once, when he did speak up, his frustration with finding the English words to express his idea made him hide his head in his hands and back into the corner of the room. Marcus and I could see him following what was going on, and knew he had all sorts of thoughts and feelings about class, but we struggled to find an opportunity that could help him shine.

Then, this past Tuesday, something completely unexpected and delightful happened. Halfway through the class, it was time to “wake up” Sparkles and Spellzy, our puppet friends who have helped us learn so much about the power of imagination.

“How can we wake up and welcome Sparkles and Spellzy?” we asked.

M raised his hand! Marcus and I were thrilled to see he wanted to participate and quickly called on him.

And then, out of NOWHERE, M started to sing. He came up with a fun, short song to help wake Sparkles and Spellzy, belting it out confidently in front of the entire class. It was brilliant! We asked him to teach it to the rest of the class, and it became a fun new way to bring the puppets into the room.

Since then, M’s light has been shining so brightly. He offers creative ideas, gets up in front of his classmates to act out silly skits, and sticks it out when he struggles to find words for what’s going on in that creative mind of his!

Alongside M, we’ve seen many students take their scattered, incredibly high energies and focus them into leadership roles. Other students are taking their English language acquisition to the next level by volunteering to read our stories out loud with growing confidence! It’s incredible to see how quickly these students are learning to trust their own voices and imaginations; they all have such unique, riveting stories to tell, and I can’t wait to hear them.