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September 23, 2011

CONTACT: Lauren Kidd
Press Office: 609-633-8507

Commissioner Allison Blake Praises Artistic Talents of Trenton Young People Participating in DCF Funded Program 

Mural Created by Isles YouthBuild Students Now on Display in Mary G. Roebling Building 

Department of Children and Families (DCF) Commissioner Allison Blake on Friday recognized a group of adolescents involved in the Isles YouthBuild Extended Evening Program, during an unveiling of their mural that will temporarily be displayed in the lobby of the Mary G. Roebling Building – which houses DCF’s central office as well as other state government offices - in Trenton.

“Our young people should be proud that they created an amazing piece of art that will now be seen by so many people who come to the Roebling Building each day,” Commissioner Blake said. “Supporting adolescents and helping them grow into well rounded adults with meaningful connections to people who care about them continues to be a priority for DCF, and this program is certainly making a positive difference in the lives of our young people.”

The Isles YouthBuild Extended Evening Program is funded by DCF and is designed to keep Trenton youth off the streets during high-risk evening hours. Young people receive academic assistance, life skills development, and job skills development, among other services.

The mural is of collaboration with Where Peace Lives, a non-profit organization based in Red Bank, with a mission to serve as a catalyst for forwarding the conversation for peace around the world.  The non-profit created the International Peace Mural Exchange program to allow young people to create and exchange murals depicting peace. The process teaches them how to resolve conflicts in a positive way with the hope of helping them to build bridges of cultural understanding and mutual respect through art and media projects. The finished products get exchanged with other murals around the world travelling in a moving exhibition from country to country.

“We want our kids to identify with peace, not violence, love, not hate. The more they explore this within themselves the more they will exercise that in their relationships,” said Stacy Heading, an Isles YouthBuild counselor. “The Isles YouthBuild mural will represent some peace in the city of Trenton, coming from our youth.”

Through a series of discussions and art exercises during the evening program, the group of young people explored topics such as “what peace means to me”. Through the images they created on the mural, the young people have told a story of life and its extreme contrasts based on firsthand experience: death of a parent, sexual abuse, isolation, hope for the future, safety, and love. 

“While working on the mural, I felt of sense of relief,” said Shafiea Evans. “Being a part of this made me feel I can do anything with people from different neighborhoods without anything negative coming from it. I really enjoyed myself.”

Ultimately, the mural created in Trenton will be exchanged with a mural painted by young people in a similar community overseas. 

The Department of Children and Families (DCF), New Jersey’s state child welfare agency, was created in July 2006 as the state’s first Cabinet agency devoted exclusively to serving and safeguarding the most vulnerable children and families in New Jersey. DCF includes the Division of Youth and Family Services, Division of Prevention and Community Partnerships and Division of Child Behavioral Health Services, and is focused on strengthening families and achieving safety, well-being and permanency for New Jersey's children.