Volunteer Spotlight: Kelly Burns

This week, our Volunteer Spotlight is on Kelly Burns!

Why do you volunteer with ASTEP?
I volunteered with ASTEP because I loved their mission. Art education is so important, and art can be a powerful tool to grow community.

What is your favorite memory from an ASTEP program?
My favorite memory from this past summer is our first rehearsal with all of our sound equipment. After the last song ended they were best essay writing service jumping up and down with huge smiles. The students were able to hear what all of their practice and teamwork had turned into, and they were ecstatic to show everyone at the final performance.

Why is arts education important?
Arts education is important because it teaches confidence, empathy, creativity and imagination. The arts have the power to build the self esteem and spirit of a person, bring a community together, and inspire a greater world.

How has art impacted/inspired you?
The arts inspire me every day, from music that pumps me up in the morning to the great works of theatre that have changed my perspective on different issues. But most of all, the process of creating different types of art has brought me life long friends and colleagues and shaped me into who I am today.

What do you hope your students gain from your time with them?
When I work with students I want their biggest take away to be confidence. With ASTEP, many of the students I taught were sitting down with an instrument for the first time, and the first week of rehearsals I got a lot of “I can’t do this.” However, in the last few weeks we were having breakthroughs everyday. The best part of teaching is watching students work hard and achieve something they originally thought was impossible. I hope they learned that they are capable of anything.

What have you learned from your students?
This past summer my students taught me about community. My students ranged in age from 6 to 14 but they had no difficulty coming together and playing like a band. The younger students looked up to the older students, who found themselves in leadership positions. The community was incredible, as we had support from parents and other teachers from the first day of camp to the final performance. My students showed me just how much you can accomplish when you have the love and support of a community.

Any advice to share for new ASTEP volunteers?
My advice to future ASTEP volunteers is simply to have fun. If your students are working hard and enjoying themselves, then the art you create will reflect that.

Thank you, Kelly for your hard work and dedication! We could not do this work without you! 

 

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Michael Lunder

This week, our Volunteer Spotlight is on Michael Lunder!

Why do you volunteer with ASTEP?
I volunteer with ASTEP because volunteer work has always been a very important part of my life and I love the ASTEP approach to supplying volunteers that can help serve all kinds of local missions in various locations.

Why is arts education important?
Arts education is so important because it inspires creative thinking, problem solving, teamwork, self expression, and shows people the power of stepping out of their comfort zone and embracing new experiences and challenges!

What is your favorite memory from an ASTEP program?
Picking a favorite memory is nearly impossible, but I think one major highlight of my Shanti Bhagwan experience was watching the graduating class trying to learn how to waltz. We got to watch them grow from awkward and uncomfortable teenagers that were stumbling over each other’s feet into these blossoming, confident, young adults that held their chins high ready for anything the world had in store for them!

How has art impacted/inspired you?
Art impacted me as a teenager by giving me an outlet to express all of the feelings I was too shy to speak up about to anybody. It inspires me everyday to chase impossible dreams and follow my heart in every day situations, and it keeps the passionate fire burning inside of me.

What do you hope your students gain from your time with them?
I would truly hope my students feel empowered to find passion and happiness, gain self acceptance and feel self-worth from their time with me.

What have you learned from your students?
Every day as a teacher reminds me to embrace imperfection. It also reminds me how powerful love and kindness are, and reminds me that there’s always room for fun.

Is there any advice you would like to share for new ASTEP Volunteers?
I don’t think I’m in a place to give any advice, but I guess I’d just say to leave your mind and your heart open and embrace every moment!

Thank you, Michael, for making magic happen in our programs!
We could not do this work without you!

 

Breaking News: ASTEP responsible for rapid and widespread arts epidemic

 

BREAKING NEWS: In classrooms all around the world, a powerful epidemic is spreading rapidly at an unprecedented rate. ASTEP Volunteer Teaching Artists, staff, and supporters are single-handedly responsible for spreading the arts to almost 4,000 students just last year alone. Reporters embedded within ASTEP say they’re just getting started and won’t stop until every kid on the planet grows up with meaningful access to the arts. If ASTEP receives the support it’s looking for, there might come a day when no kid on the planet will be safe from the life-altering effects…of art.

We caught the bug, now help us spread it!
Donate to ASTEP

 

 

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.

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Alison Green

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT!

Alison Green

This week, our volunteer spotlight is on Alison Green!

Why do you volunteer with ASTEP?
I believe that the arts are transformational and offer learners opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. I have witnessed this impact in learners directly through improved confidence, listening skills, a rise in levels of empathy and compassion and a willingness to engage with diversity and explore narratives very different from their own. I believe that all these skills are essential in today’s world and for our sustained future as humans on earth.

How long have you been volunteering with ASTEP?
Since 2013 (?) I think…

What programs have you been a part of with ASTEP?
Due to my location I am mostly involved in the South African artsINSIDEOUT programme but have also witnessed some of the ASTEP summer programs in the US. I have also attended the brilliant Artist as Citizen conference at Juilliard.

What is your favorite memory from an ASTEP program?
Wow, so many. I guess the continued reminder that whenever I visit Nkosi’s Haven, or see the kids on an outing, they ask about artsINSIDEOUT and when it is happening again. I think this is a solid indicator that they perceive the programme as an important recurring event in their lives, much like Christmas, and look forward to it eagerly, with joy and with anticipation.

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

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

 

 

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 Reflection: Gabby Serrano

 

Name: Gabby Serrano

Age: 28

Where are you from, originally?  New York City!

How did you find out about ASTEP? Referred by a fellow volunteer. Shout out to Luz De La Cruz!

Which programs have you been a part of? ASTEP Arts Camp at Shanti Bhavan and ASTEP on STAGE! at the Incarnation Children’s Center and CHOICES Alternative to Detention program.

Do you have a background in teaching, when you started? No!

What is your arts background? I’ve been a visual artist for as long as I can remember. It all began with two of the finest mediums, crayons and paint (I’ll include fingers, as it was finger-painting to be exact). Early on, I realized that I truly enjoyed taking the time to freely express myself and continuously build off of previous efforts. Like many adults, life happened, and my passion lay dormant for a few years. It wasn’t until I decided to take an elective in sculpting that I found myself drawn back in and reacquainted with my long time love of the arts. I continued to create at my own leisure and pushed myself to explore different mediums and forms of art. A friend took notice to my artwork and recommended that I check out an organization that she had recently volunteered with in Florida. It wasn’t long after that conversation that I found myself on a flight heading to ASTEP’s art camp in India at Shanti Bhavan to teach visual arts. I currently use art regularly as an outlet and as a challenge to encourage myself to keep learning new and fun ways to create.

What challenges did you overcome while on site? There were times when we had additional attendees at a workshop and limited art supplies. One particular activity required drawing your neighbor’s portrait. Because there weren’t enough utensils to allow each child to choose their own medium, the activity underwent some impromptu revisions. We asked each child to randomly exchange mediums throughout the lesson, so that each child had a chance to explore a different medium while creating a single portrait. This essentially encouraged them (and I) to improvise and foster resourcefulness.

What victories did you achieve, while on site? There have been several occasions where people (both children and adults) have communicated their dislike or difficulty with visual arts prior to starting the activity because they feel that “they’re just not good at it.” It has been an ongoing learning experience for me as a teaching artist to find innovative and empathetic ways to help others overcome that self-proclaimed barrier, which can potentially influence their ability to thoroughly try. There was one particular instance, when a teenager didn’t want to partake in the activity for the same reason. However, after sharing a short chat with him that I realized he just needed some additional guidelines to work off. Once I provided him with some helpful hints on how to create a proportionate face, he really got into the assignment and created an amazing portrait. He was so proud of his work and even his fellow classmates took notice to his artwork. He’s a visual artist–he just needed some tools and encouragement to see his own potential.

What did working with ASTEP teach you about yourself? I’m currently a social work intern with a passion for visual arts. ASTEP is largely accredited for encouraging me to continue to pursue the arts and integrate it into my future career.  I’ve learned that I can combine my two passions and that it is totally possible to create whatever it is you envision.

What program is next for you? As an intern, I have fortunately been able to still partake in some of the volunteer opportunities in the tristate area. Some of the new, and more recent ASTEP programs are Women in Need and CHOICES. Once I graduate, I’d love to return to Shanti Bhavan and try other international and statewide opportunities.