Human trafficking for sex and labor is an ugly and real problem in Oregon, Chris Killmer, a program manager with the nonprofit Immigration Counseling Service, told 75 Catholic school students attending Jesuit High School’s first-ever Social Justice Summit. And it’s up to the students to get the word out.
“The primary way to get ahead on this thing is awareness,” said Killmer, whose group provides legal and social services to immigrant communities. “Most people don’t even know this is happening.”
The summit brought together students from the Portland area’s six Catholic high schools to learn about human trafficking and immigration issues, and to inspire them to do something about it, said Scott Powers, director of Christian Services at Jesuit. Speakers told students to get involved by writing their congressmen about supporting immigration reform, raising awareness about human trafficking and renewing the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
Jesuit High students plan to meet with members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation in February about human trafficking, and the summit was a rallying cry for other schools to do the same. Maria Fleming, Christian Services director at St. Mary’s Academy, said the 25 students from her school attending the summit were particularly interested in learning how to talk to lawmakers about trafficking issues. Five students at St. Mary’s Academy over the summer started Youth Ending Slavery (YES), an organization that seeks to eradicate slavery through awareness. Allison Nasson, 17, the senior who started the group, said the summit was an important step in raising awareness. “We don’t want YES just to be a St. Mary’s thing,” she said. “We want to encourage youth to get involved. There’s so much opportunity to change things.”
Learn more at Sara Hottman’s Oregon Live article: Catholic students hear realities of human trafficking, plea to get involved at first Social Justice Summit.