School 17 Sixth Graders Unveil “Children’s Visions and Voices”

Photos and Essays Explore Health Issues in Jay Orchard Street Neighborhood

March 23, 2004

"Children’s Visions and Voices serves as a poignant example of the plight faced not only by residents of the Jay Orchard street community, but most inner city neighborhoods here in Rochester and across the nation"

Abandoned houses. Litter. Graffiti. Tombstone memorials. All of this and more is showcased in Children’s Visions and Voices, a 64-page booklet created by Enrico Fermi School No. 17 sixth-graders to highlight the health of their Jay Orchard street neighborhood. In September, the students were given disposable cameras and asked to photograph issues in their community that they felt negatively impacted the health of residents. Each student selected one photo and wrote a short essay.  All 59 photos and essays are included in the Children’s Visions and Voices booklet.

Children’s Visions and Voices serves as a poignant example of the plight faced not only by residents of the Jay Orchard street community, but most inner city neighborhoods here in Rochester and across the nation,” said Thomas A. Pearson, M.D., M.P.H., chair of URMC’s Department of Community and Preventive Medicine. “What contributes to people’s health—or sickness—is directly correlated to the state of their environment, as the students of School 17 clearly illustrate for us in this booklet.  As we all work to improve the health of our community, it’s important we focus not just on the individual, but the environment as well.”

Former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., who also serves as the Medical Center’s Senior Advisor for Community Health, helped to launch Children’s Visions and Voices.  In September, he hosted a discussion with School 17 students to explore the many facets of personal and community health before the children photographed the neighborhood. 

“I am always amazed at what we learn when we take the time to listen to children. Often, we just assume kids are not thinking about their health or the health of others. But when you ask them, you realize these issues are on their mind, and that they have much to say about the topic,” Satcher said.  “Without their perspective, we cannot see the full scope of community issues that need our attention or deal with the unique challenges that they themselves face.”

Using the book as a source of inspiration, the sixth graders have committed to organize a Community Spring Clean Up. According to Annamaria Manso, a sixth grade teacher at School 17, the children discussed creating permanent projects, such as a Peace Park or new basketball courts, but felt that these would eventually be vandalized.

“The students believe that permanent structures would not last in the neighborhood because of a pervasive lack of respect for property among residents,” Manso said. “The Community Spring Clean Up is much more than just a simple, one-time neighborhood cleaning.  The children plan to work with the city and others to help change the consciousness of the neighborhood so that residents will begin to take pride in caring for their community. The children feel this shift in thinking needs to occur before investing a lot of effort, resources and time in a landmark project that would simply be vandalized in a short period of time.” 

Children’s Visions and Voices is sponsored by Citibank, Upstate New York, and is a result of a partnership between the University of Rochester Medical Center, JOSANA (Jay-Orchard Street Area Neighborhood Association), the Rochester City School District and Lake Effect Magazine.

The booklets are available for purchase ($5).  All funds raised will go directly to enrich the programs for the children of School 17.  For more information, or to purchase a booklet, call or email Gail Newton at gail_newton@urmc.rochester.edu, or 585/275-7676.

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For Media Inquiries:
Germaine Reinhardt
(585) 275-6517
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