Isabella Vacquez’s ambition is to be an artist “as famous as Picasso.” And as the statewide winner in a poster contest for second and third graders, she’s well on her way.
The contest was sponsored by New Jersey Child Assault Prevention (NJCAP), an organization devoted to providing prevention education to children from ages pre-kindergarten to high school. The 30-year-old organization holds a contest each year, with winners in four age groups: grades K-1, 2-3, 4-5, and middle school (6-8).
Vacquez’s entry not only won the top prize in her category, it was selected to be printed on gift bags that will be distributed to all attendees at the first International CAP Conference in Atlantic City on April 14.
She is the first contest winner from Hudson County in at least a dozen years.
“This is phenomenal,” said Schools Superintendent Dr. George Solter. “It’s great to have us represented. It’s a credit to Isabella, her parents, the teachers, and the administration here at Horace Mann School.”
“She had to draw a picture of something that reminded her of CAP, of being safe, of what she learned,” said Hudson County CAP Coordinator Millie Castillo. “And we wanted it to be international: children safe around the world. Her picture was a globe with little kids of different races around it, and the words ‘safe, strong, and free.’
“I came up with the idea because I thought about what represents peace and freedom,” said Isabella. “So then I thought of the dove [representing] peace and freedom from bullies. And the globe has a smiley face because it’s happy that there’s no more bullying and no more teasing.”
Isabella Vacquez’s poster will be printed on bags given to all attendees of the International Child Assault Prevention Conference in Atlantic City.
A big honor
Isabella and her family will be guests at the CAP conference in Atlantic City, where she will receive $50 and a certificate onstage. She will be featured in the commemorative event journal and her poster will be displayed in a gallery with the other winners and select runners-up from the 200 submissions statewide. “It’s a big honor for a child to be able to stand up in front of all those people and be honored,” said NJCAP Supervisor Patty Crimaldi.
Especially this year. For their 30th anniversary CAP went international, for the first time hosting a special event featuring speakers from across the globe, on topics including “How child abuse sets the stage for trafficking,” “Students and gun violence,” and “Could your child be involved in homegrown terrorism?”
NJCAP has more than 200 facilitators in New Jersey who visit local schools and provide education and information on being “safe, strong, and free.”
“What CAP does is they come in and they talk to the kids about reporting abuse, about how to prevent being abused or assaulted,” said Horace Mann Principal Richard Locricchio.
“We teach children how they can protect themselves from bullying, and also from assault from an adult, which includes unsafe touching,” said Castillo.
“Our program is based on empowerment,” added Crimaldi. “We hold workshops with parents, staff, and children.”
Any child who participated in a workshop within the past two years was invited to submit a poster to this year’s contest.
“We appreciate how North Bergen schools have supported us,” said Crimaldi.
“I love art,” said Isabella, who used markers, pencil, and crayons to create her award-winning poster.
“She’s always drawn around the house,” explained her dad, Osiris Vacquez. “Right now she’s in a little art school in Fort Lee. She’s only been there for three weeks. She goes once a week on Sundays. And she does her little sketches and drawings.”
In fact Isabella recently drew her first landscape, which she planned to bring to school to show her classmates.
“I still can’t believe she won,” said her mom, Sandra Vacquez. “Because this is the first time she entered a contest.”
“We’re so proud of her,” said Guidance Counselor Samantha Lugo about Isabella’s CAP poster. “It’s beautiful. If you look individually at the drawings of the kids that she did around the globe, they’re all different.”
“Hopefully this will give her a big boost and push her to go forward,” said Osiris. “We’ll see where it takes us.”
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.