On Friday, February 3rd I was able to participate in the 1st Annual Ohio Human Trafficking Youth Prevention Summit held in Columbus at the Ohio Statehouse. The event was hosted by Representative Theresa Fedor as an additional event to the 8th Annual Ohio Human Trafficking Awareness Day held in the Capitol the day before. Over 200 high school and college students from all over Ohio (Toledo, Columbus, Cleveland, Akron, Dayton, Cincinnati, and surrounding areas) came together to become more aware of and advocate for human trafficking prevention.
The agenda for the day was full of inspiring speakers and creative activities aimed at providing education and a message of action to youth about how to get involved in this important issue and learn how to protect themselves and their peers from being at-risk. At the Summit Representative Fedor also introduced a new bill that would help protect 16 and 17 year old youth from human trafficking with this announcement.
Survivors and advocates gave voice to and shared their experiences with students through poetry, music, performance, and panel discussions. This included Poet Quynterra Eskridge, Rapper Archie Green, and national speaker, author, and educator Dr. Elaine Richardson, who performed her one woman show PHD to PhD: How Education Saved My Life. The day’s events also included a panel moderated by Renee Jones of statewide professionals representing the fields of public health, law enforcement, policy, and juvenile justice. It was an honor to be included with this very knowledgeable line up to share my role at the Renee Jones Empowerment Center offering art therapy for survivors and at risk teens as part of Ursuline ArtSpace Outreach.
The day concluded with a break out session for students with the University of Dayton and for educators with Abolition Ohio. A valuable resource that was shared for educators and other professionals working with youth to implement prevention programming was this guide published by the Ohio Attorney General.
Also available throughout the Summit was art making that invited students to creatively contribute a pledge hand in response to standing up to human trafficking and bringing awareness- many positive and encouraging messages were created by youth in attendance as part of this project in the Ohio Statehouse Atrium.
Thank you to Representative Fedor for hosting this event for the wellbeing of Ohio’s youth and the Renee Jones Empowerment Center in helping with organizing the event’s offerings. It was an inspiring day full of information, strategies, help, and hope.
For additional resources, please visit these regional and national sites:
- National Educators to Stop Trafficking (NEST)
- Ohio Human Trafficking Commission
- Reprentative Fedor’s Ohio House Bill 130
- Project Red Cord: RJEC Human Trafficking Prevention Program for Teens
- National Human Trafficking Hotline
- Polaris Project