New Brunswick 7th-graders find their voices through novel self-expression program

February 3, 2016

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Children who have difficulty talking about their thoughts and feelings are learning a new outlet of expression through a fledgling project called PhotOvoiceS.

Sponsored by Saint Peter’s Healthcare System, PhotOvoiceS is a new technique embraced by psychologists for giving a “voice” to children who may struggle with expressing their thoughts. Children who strain to communicate in such a manner may be disadvantaged in various ways.

The PhotOvoiceS project was recently launched in the New Brunswick schools with funding by a federal grant administered through the New Jersey Department of Health. Saint Peter’s is coordinating its implementation among seventh-grade students throughout the city.

The capital letters in PhotOvoiceS emphasize the “POSitive.” “Some amazing photos and reflections have resulted from students in the process,” said Rosemary Kern, Saint Peter’s coordinator of Project Respect Ed, which includes the PhotOvoiceS project.

As a result of community interest in this project, students’ photos and their writings are currently on display in the hallways of New Brunswick Middle School, while 34 PhotOvoiceS pictures and student narratives can also be viewed in New Brunswick City Hall.

The public is invited to tour City Hall in order to see the PhotOvoiceS display.

Seventh-grader Gavin Isidor had this to say in his PhotOVoiceS narrative: “I took a picture of a park a place where people go to relax and exercise and to take people’s minds off of smoking. This picture shows how the community has a place to exercise. Smoking influences people with thinking they are cool by doing it but they are not. You can die from it and then you can’t go to school. People in my age group should know that smoking is bad and it can cause cancer. Smoking can stop you from being healthy because it puts you in a bad mood, it’s addictive, and it causes lots of problems.  This picture will inspire others to go to the park instead of smoking and be able to run, jump, and breathe the fresh air of the park without being handicapped.

Rosio Rojas, another seventh-grader, talked about the protective power of music: "What I can see are kids around my age playing instruments like violin or viola, while the teacher is instructing them. My picture describes how you can prevent drugs and bad actions. This is a way to resist NEGATIVE pressure by doing something that doesn’t involve drugs or negative things. It could inspire others if they see this picture. I hope children or adults play an instrument and prevent drugs. If they do drugs they may get addictive to it and make wrong choices. The topic is important because it shows you can like the way you are. If you start doing drugs, it may cause health issues and with health issues you will not be able to enjoy the things you like. It impacts a person because if they do not do drugs they will not do sexual activities in the future."


Jennifer Sevilla, a Project Respect Ed counselor at Saint Peter’s Healthcare System, coordinates the day-to-day activities of the PhotOvoiceS roject. The public may contact her for more information about PhotOvoiceS at 732-745-8600, Ext. 6798, or Briana Suffy, management specialist in the mayor’s office, at  or 732-745-5004.


PhotoVoices Release


Photo Caption: New Brunswick seventh-grader Gavin Isidor had this to say in his PhotOVoiceS narrative about the image he photographed in Johnson Park: “I took a picture of a park as a place where people go to relax and exercise and to take people’s minds off of smoking.”


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