When you learn, teach. When you get, give.
It’s a lesson poet Maya Angelou learned from her grandmother.
Two Saline high school students are shining examples of that lesson.
Sydney Masters and Annie Rothfuss have spent months learning about human trafficking a Family, Career and Community Leaders of America contest. Masters and Rothfuss won their state contest. Now they’re preparing for the National Leadership Conference in San Diego in July, where’ they’ll their case again.
But before they do that, they’re sharing what they’ve learned with the community, Monday, May 20, at Liberty School, they’ll present “Human Trafficking Awareness Night.” Speakers include Alice Jay, a survivor of human trafficking, FBI agent Nicole McGee and Robin Batten, cyber safety coordinator for Washtenaw Area Council for Children.
The program is from 6 to 8 p.m. in the media center.
Human trafficking is the trade of people for the purpose of forced labor, sexual slavery or forced prostitution. News reports say that, globally, nearly 25 million are trafficked for forced labor. Almost 5 million people are trafficked for sex purposes. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that of 23,500 endangered runaways in 2018, one in seven were likely involved in child sex trafficking. The average age of child sex trafficking victims reported to that group is 15.
Both Rothfuss and Masters say they’ve learned important lessons about a problem that’s much more prevalent than they previously believed.
The pair decided to have a local program to share what they’ve learned. Human trafficking isn’t some far-away problem.
“It can happen to anyone, anywhere. Toledo is one of the worst cities for human trafficking, and that’s just down the road,” Rothfuss said.
Last week a Toledo-area pastor was sentenced to life in prison for child sex-trafficking. Near Detroit, in Warren, police arrested 35 people in a sex-trafficking sting.
“It’s a serious problem. And it can affect anyone,” Rothfuss said.
One key part of their presentation involves showing fellow teens ways they can protect themselves. According to Masters, traffickers are scouring social media networks, looking for potential victims.
“They’re looking for vulnerability. You can post something that shows you feel bad about something, or that you’re depressed, and then they’ll latch on to that and give you the support you think you need. But it’s just a front to get you to trust them,” Masters said. “It was eye-opening. There are definitely things I will not post on social media. I see friends post things all the time that a trafficker might see as an invitation.”
FCCLA is a student club that meets once or twice a month. The club was once known as Future Homemakers of America. Rothfuss and Masters knew they wanted to do an advocacy project – but hadn’t settled on a topic.
“Sydney and I were getting our nails done and a story came on the television. It was about a girl who met a guy online. She left her family and town to go with this guy, who brought her into the trafficking world. She wound up being killed after she was sexually assaulted,” Rothfuss said.
The pair knew they had their topic.
They’re proud their work was well-received and that it resulted in a victory and the state competition. They see Monday’s program as a tune-up for the national tournament.
Saline High School teacher Whitney Barr is advisor for FCCLA. She’s pleased by the work of Masters and Rothfuss.
“Annie and Sydney are driven and passionate about spreading awareness about human trafficking. This project has helped shed light on a serious issue, throughout the community. They took their project to states and placed first. After being invited to nationals, they were determined to take their project a step farther and host the human trafficking night for parents,” Barr said.