Seminar educates youths about human trafficking

Juniors+Lane+Holtmyer%2C+Marisa+Moore%2C+Courtney+Cronk%2C+and+Savannah+Martin+travel+the+streets+of+Times+Square+during+their+IAS+trip.

Juniors Lane Holtmyer, Marisa Moore, Courtney Cronk, and Savannah Martin travel the streets of Times Square during their IAS trip.

Understanding current events and issues is important, but so is having fun.

The International Affairs Seminar (IAS) is a gathering of First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, in which the attendees go to a number of symposiums on a given topic.

For the 2014 year, juniors Savannah Martin, Courtney Cronk, Marisa Moore and Lane Holtmyer decided to attend.

“Each year the topic changes, depending on what is a prominent issue in current events,” Martin said. “This year’s topic was human trafficking.”

However, it was not only a matter of signing up if they wanted to go. Over the summer, potential attendees filled out applications to be accepted.

“I have always known this was an opportunity for juniors and seniors, and I, fortunately, was chosen,” Moore said.

After being chosen, the girls had to find a way to raise the money needed to cover their costs. They did a number of fundraisers, including raffle drawings, a dessert auction, gift wrapping, and a Silpada jewelry sale. The girls also sold bracelets that said “We Are Not For Sale IAS 2014.”

While the girls had to step up and take responsibility over the fundraisers, Martin attributes her ability to go to others.

“It most definitely could not have happened had it not been for the support of family, friends and members of the church,” Martin said. “I’m so grateful that myself and the other girls had such a strong support system.”

The seminars were held in Washington, D.C. and New York City. For the first portion, the IAS attendees flew into D.C., where throughout the day they gained information about human trafficking and at night got to tour some of the famous attractions.

“I really liked seeing all the monuments in person when we went to Washington,” Moore said.

Along with the monuments (the World War II memorial, Lincoln memorial and Vietnam memorial) and the museums (the Native American Museum and Smithsonian) the girls had many memorable experiences.

“We slept on the floor of a church in sleeping bags for the D.C. portion,” Martin said. “That was interesting.”

From there, they took an approximately four hour train ride to New York City.

“We stayed at a Hostel, which is like a hotel but cheaper,” Martin said.

In New York they saw two broadway shows, “Les Miserables” and “The Blue Man Group.” Martin had been looking forward to seeing “Les Miserables” the most, and she was not disappointed.

“It was so incredible,” Martin said.

On the Friday before they went home, all of the young attendees at IAS were sectioned off into specific travel groups, where they got to explore different parts of New York. These destinations included the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 memorial, the Empire State Building and Time Square.

“Time Square in New York was amazing,” Cronk said. “When they say the city never sleeps, they’re not lying. The city never sleeps.”

When they were not having a blast sightseeing around the bustling city, their day had a much more serious theme.  Over 100,000 girls all over the world are affected by human trafficking.

“To learn that slavery is not a thing of the past and that its happening in the United States was shocking,” Martin said.

They also learned that human trafficking does not only deal with sex slavery and that it happens a lot closer to home.

“There are people working as slaves in factories, orchards and even in private homes right here in the U.S.,” Martin said.

The girls learned that large corporations are not the only people who can make a difference; by getting the word out about human trafficking, they themselves can help to stop these horrible crimes.

“Human trafficking happens daily whether we see it or not,” Moore said, “and it’s up to us to spread awareness for all the people affected.”

The students involved took away more from the trip than just jet lag and a few souvenirs.

“Probably the most beneficial thing I learned was how to raise awareness and also set long term goals in an effort to get the word out about human trafficking,” said Martin.

IAS is all about gaining cultural understanding on the world’s most inherent issues and learning how to be a part in changing them.

“It was overall such an incredible experience to get to meet new people and be part of such a tight knit group of people,” said Martin.