Students tune in to program to help Turn Off the Violence

Article courtesy Today's Sunbeam
Friday, November 07, 2003

, Today's Sunbeam Staff Writer

WOODSTOWN -- Working on the premise that the pen is mightier than the sword, students at Woodstown High School recently wrote from the soul, intent on conveying one message: Turn off the Violence.

Now in its fourth year, the Turn Off the Violence program has been a vehicle for Salem County high school students to express their views about violence and its impact on their lives. In previous years, the program has been held at Salem, Penns Grove and Pennsville high schools.

The program is sponsored by the Partners of Salem County -- the Delaware River and Bay Authority, Mannington Mills Inc., The Memorial Hospital of Salem County, Pennsville National Bank, PSEG Nuclear and Today's Sunbeam.

More than 300 students participated in this year's program. From designing and creating ads for the Turn off the Violence supplement to writing essays, poems and short stories, Woodstown High School students opened their creative souls to show all their aversion to violence.

The message came through loud and clear.

"This violence and hostility can't last forever. It will reach a breaking point soon enough," writes sophomore Matt Brouillette.

"Stop the violence and start the peace because violence spreads faster than a disease," according to Kieran Higgins, a sophomore.

"...people are always so quick to separate people in categories. When you discriminate it leads to violence, violence leads to hate, hate leads to hurt and pain, and hurt and pain leads to a hurtful and stressful life," concludes ninth-grader Chelsea Quirk.

These snippets from poems and essays can be seen along with others and business ads designed and created by the students in the Turn off the Violence supplement in today's paper. In addition to the supplement, a program including awards and readings will be held at the school next week.

Dr. Scott Hoopes, Woodstown High School principal, said he is excited about the positive program coming to the school.

"I think it sends a positive message about violence prevention and promotes a message of peace," Hoopes said

Hoopes said reading through the thoughts of the students in print, he was surprised at the number of references to Columbine High School in Colorado and how students were still affected by the tragic shootings. He said he also believes the students are still feeling the aftershocks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Partners' participation in the program has been a testament to the community pulling together to support the issues young people are facing.

"The Delaware River and Bay Authority is really proud to be a part of Turn off the Violence," according to DRBA Commissioner Robert McWilliams. "It's part of our continuing community outreach programs."

Ceil Smith, general manager of Today's Sunbeam, said Turn off the Violence was conceived with the intentions of getting the students to express their feelings freely about the topic through writings and designing ads.

"Out of all the Partners programs, this is my favorite," Smith said. "The children really take center stage. Hearing their opinions and feelings on such an important topic is really what it's all about."

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