ASTEP changed my life. I remember working with a student who didn't speak English very well and no matter how hard the teachers and I tried, he just wouldn't budge. Each time during journaling though, I would notice he would start writing a little bit more than the day before. Soon enough, he was participating in improvisation exercises in Drama class and dancing in the front row for dance choreography class. Using the ASTEP mission statement, as teachers we created a camp that allowed for this student to experiment with all forms of expression, despite the language barrier that existed. At the final performance, right before he went on stage to play his solo guitar gig, he looked into my eyes and said- I will never go into something with a negative attitude. It was in that single moment that I knew that even if these students don't go on to be famous performers on Broadway or incredible musicians playing at Rockefeller Center, they now had the confidence to take on the world. Without ASTEP, that wouldn't have been possible.
My experience with ASTEP was life changing. I learned so much about myself and what I am capable of doing. I wish I would have knew a little more about the program before going down to Florida because I was a bit nervous, but I now realize that I had no reason to be nervous. The kids, other volunteers, and staff were amazing. I truly hope that I get to work with ASTEP again!!
I just finished my 3rd year working with Artists Striving To End Poverty Inc. (ASTEP) in it's Homestead, Florida High School Summer Camp. The work that they do there can only be described as palpable. I can't imagine planning a year without including some time to volunteer for them. They have a habit of creating a welcoming atmosphere that seems to touch you before you get on the plane. You feel the family forming before you meet your team and by the time you're in the same room it's already like you've known each other for months. It's not enough to read about the magic that happens there, it must be experienced physically. There is something that changes the air about working with them that everyone feels. I have witnessed youth of varying ages enter the camp with a shy, insecure demeanor and by the last day of camp most of the those kids are jumping in the middle of a crowd screaming the camp chant louder than any else. ASTEP has made it personally possible for me to witness the type of change that occurs when you take time to give your time to bestow your talents and skills on youth. It has quite frequently brought me to tears.
Teaching in FL and South Africa with ASTEP was the most inspiring and important thing I have done with my life so far. I learned so much about another culture, I learned about how art can heal. Even if you don't speak the same language, you can communicate through art and change the life of a young child. The kids in FL and South Africa changed my life, opened my eyes to a new way of seeing the world, they taught me how to be a more compassionate human. I wouldn't trade my experience with ASTEP for anything in the world. It was fantastic!
I volunteer for ASTEP once a week, mostly doing office-y type stuff... and not only does it make me feel awesome (because that's what volunteering does), every week i learn another fabulous amazing thing that ASTEP does, or i learn about another amazing life it has touched. Check out the website, volunteer and challenge yourself to change lives... and your own in the process.