Saline High School students Sydney Masters and Annie Rothfuss, as part of the high school's student leadership program led by Whitney Barr, continued their quest to spread awareness about human trafficking in front of the Saline Board of Education.
When confronted with the realization that many of their peers in the community didn't feel like human trafficking was a local problem, Masters and Rothfuss decided "well, that needs to change."
Human trafficking is the the practice of illegally transporting people, sometimes against their will, from one country or area to another - often for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation.
Masters and Rothfuss are headed to the FCCLA National Convention in Anaheim California, after winning the state National Leadership Conference in Michigan earlier this year for their presentation on human trafficking, which started with a simple video shown three or four times to fellow Saline High School students during Hornet Time.
Those who view the presentation are typically shocked to learn that Michigan is ranked seventh in the nation for human trafficking cases, which experts believe are dwarfed by the number of incidents that are never discovered and investigated by law enforcement.
There are currently 40.3 million victims of human trafficking in the world, Masters and Rothfuss reported. Projections place the profit derived from these victims at more than $150 billion in yearly revenue within the broader global black market economy.
"Our goal for the project was to create awareness," Masters said. "Our slogan is 'Be smart, be aware, and be educated.'"
Rothfuss said the response to the video has only encouraged the girls' effort to continue taking their effort as far as it could go on the increased interest that it has garnered.
She reported that Human Trafficking Awareness Night held at Liberty earlier this year was "a great success."
The speakers included an FBI agent with background in fighting and preventing human trafficking, a cyber safety expert who educated those in attendance about online safety, and a former victim of human trafficking who was captive for 17 years before escaping to safety and regaining her freedom.
"She said she's 'Advocating with her journey," and she's showing others how trafficking can be," Rothfuss said.
Hopefully after a successful showing in Anaheim this week, the effort can continue at other school buildings in Saline and at other sites outside of the school district later in the year, Rothfuss said.
Thus far these exceptional Saline student leaders have presented at Brewed Awakenings with backing from Mancino's Pizza & Grinders of Saline. They've also taken their message to a yoga class in Blissfield Township - an hour away from Saline.
Masters and Rothfuss thanked the community for their interest and support.