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Graduate students studying art therapy had the opportunity to work with families and children living at the Jersey Shore affected by Superstorm Sandy.   As part of the pilot program, Jersey Coast Creates, the students conducted art therapy activities at a series of healing arts workshops this spring.    Led by Caldwell Art Therapy Instructor Annette Vaccaro, 18 Caldwell students along with art therapy alumna Karen Rosen, a registered art therapist, volunteered at the Oceanport Middle School on Saturdays in the spring.  “Art therapy takes people who are affected by a tragedy such as Sandy out of crisis and everyday stress to a safe place, instilling hope,” Vaccaro said. 

Barbara Zelop, a student in the Master of Arts in Counseling with Art Therapy Specialization,  volunteered to be the on-site student coordinator for the project since she is interested in working with people affected by trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.  She knows that“art heals” and brings people together as a community and that artistic skills are not required to participate.   The professors at Caldwell taught her that the healing is “in the process”, she said, not in the art product itself.

Vaccaro said that the Caldwell Master of Arts in Counseling with Art Therapy Specialization looks to expose students to a range of populations and settings where they can work with diverse people and that this project was a perfect fit, especially since service is one of the missions of the college and the Dominican order. The project is modeled after a program that Florida State University used in the aftermath of Katrina. “We were able to connect with the professors at Florida State in planning the Caldwell program,” she said.

Vaccaro worked with her colleague Lauren Greenstone, a registered art therapist, who is the team pilot leader for Jersey Coast Creates, a project of the New Jersey Art Therapy Association.