Rutgers Student Spearheads a Day of AIDS/HIV Testing and Counseling

Rutgers Student Spearheads a Day of AIDS/HIV Testing and Counseling

Graduate student grows up in Camden and now helps provide services to poor communities

John Turner
John Turner founded WeDoBigThings on the idea that "we can be anything we want, regardless of where we begin."
He is not a doctor, but that isn’t stopping Rutgers MSW graduate student John P. Turner from using his skills to help organize an AIDS/HIV testing day this month that will provide testing counseling and education.

As the founder of WeDoBigThings, a nonprofit organization that promotes community service projects, Turner partnered with nonprofit iROC (Intelligently Redefining Our Culture) to organize the event, which is expected to test approximately 400 people.

The AIDS/HIV Testing Day, which replicates a national model called Know Your Status, will take place Friday, June 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Philadelphia. In collaboration with the Temple University Medical School, individuals will receive confidential testing, counseling and education. A welcome booth will be set up in front of Temple University, with participants receiving private testing inside the medical school’s Liacouras Center.

Turner, who grew up in Camden, founded WeDoBigThings on the idea that “we can be anything we want, regardless of where we begin.”

“There are so many areas of need in poor communities and barriers to success. My training as a social worker has helped me to learn what it takes to make a difference in people’s lives and try to eliminate these barriers,” Turners says. “It has taught me to use the resources I have to help my local community. “

Growing up in Camden, Turner believes he escaped the crime and poverty through strong family support and his family’s faith. Today Turner speaks to high school students throughout the Philadelphia and Camden in the hopes of inspiring them to visualize a better future.

At a recent talk at Camelot Academy, an alternative high school for Camden high school students, Turner asked the students about their aspirations and dreams for their future.

“The most frequent answer was to become a king pin, a drug lord, or a corner boy, the latter referring to the unemployed residents who stand on street corners. For students in poverty, these are their only role models,” Turner says.Some Camden high schools have become high school to prison pipelines, Turner says.  He describes them as existing in the middle of barbed wire and desolation with students looking out the window and seeing only empty lots and graffiti.

“I’ve lived in Camden before, so I never tell students that life there isn’t tough. I validate the difficulty of their lives while telling them that they can get through it. I use my social work skills to reach them and try to be a role model for what is possible,” he says.

AIDS/HIV Testing Day Information  

Onsite testing, counseling and education will be provided on Friday, June 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in front of the Temple University and inside the Liacouras Center near Broad and Cecil B. Moore Avenue. Philadelphia. That night a free awards ceremony called the Red Tie Affair will be held at the Philadelphia Ethical Society starting at 7 p.m. to celebrate those tested. Keynote speaker former Assistant District Attorney Kevin Harden Jr. will lead the night, which will include spoken word poetry and live art painting. For more information, click here

Turner’s mother kept him and his two younger siblings out of trouble through strict curfews, extracurricular activities and the expectation of academic excellence. His father, a Philadelphia defense attorney, also valued education and pushed his children to persevere and excel. As Turner watched friends’ lives turning to trouble, his father inspired him to take advantage of his family’s support by advancing in school and organizing positive community movements.

“I saw former friends of mine get stuck in bad situations, and it made me value the investment that my family made in me. Now my hope is to make an impact on the community and help others to find success,” says Turner.

After he completes his graduate studies at the Rutgers School of Social Work, Turner plans to earn a graduate degree in nursing and a Ph.D. in community and behavioral Health. His two younger siblings are following his lead, also planning for careers in nursing.

Turner is a fall 2013 initiate of the “Ten Sons of SocRHOtes” through the Grande Glorious Rho Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He would like to thank his fraternity and chapter for their continued support.

Beth Salamon, Communications, School of Social Work,