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Monday, September 22, 2014
High schoolers focus on keeping women safe
Sacred Heart students raise awareness of human trafficking
Courtesy Karen Rienzi
Sacred Heart students, Mia Campbell, far left, Sarah Tanchuck, Nicole Cody, Samantha Levano, Cassidy Pinder and Olayemi Akingboye will hold a candlelight vigil for female victims of human trafficking later this month.

While most of the nation will be gearing up for the Super Bowl in February, which will take place at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, by planning parties, six young women at Sacred Heart Academy will be drawing attention to a less renowned ritual at the event: the hiring of prostitutes.

Sacred Heart seniors Samantha Levano, 16, Nicole Cody, 16, Mia Campbell, 17, and juniors Olayemi Akingboye, 16, Sarah Tanchuck, 16, and Cassidy Pinder, 16, have recently launched a school campaign to raise awareness about human trafficking after attending a student summit on the growing prostitution problem at the Super Bowl titled Not on Our Turf: Students for a Traffick Free Super Bowl, at St. Mary Louis Academy in Queens on Nov. 16. The event was hosted by Project Stay Gold, a global nonprofit organization dedicated to educating students about modern-day slavery and mounting a worldwide abolitionist movement.

“I think we really have to spread [this message], especially in these schools, because no one is really talking about it, and that’s the big issue,” Levano said. “If no one talks about it, these women who are vulnerable and who come from homes where they’re being abused, or maybe their family isn’t really all together, it will make them more likely to fall into this horrible system.”

At the summit, the Sacred Heart students took part in workshops and discussions, led by speakers from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the New York City Police Department Special Victims Squad, that focused on the facts about sex slavery while encouraging students to launch their own social awareness campaign at their schools.

Students learned that a slave during the Civil War era cost about $40,000 in today’s currency, while sex workers today are worth around $90.

“People are basically feeding off of other people’s vulnerabilities for their own gain, and I feel as though society is sort of responsible in a way,” Pinder, who is from West Hempstead, said of sex trafficking. “I feel like people who do things like this, who traffic others, have lost a part of their humanity, and I feel as though society should have it ingrained in others that we should take responsibility for each other.”

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