TRAFFICK FREE POMONA PARTICIPATES IN PROM FOR A CAUSE
Human trafficking is often not seen as a problem in the United States because it is not highly visible. According to the United States Department of Justice, as of 2011 there were 2,515 reports of human trafficking.
The second annual “Prom for a Cause” was held on May 3 at The Kellogg West Conference Center and Hotel from 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets were $15 for singles and $25 for a couple. All proceeds benefited organizations that fight to bring awareness and stop local human trafficking.
Jessica Lukito, a seventh-year kinesiology and health promotion student, planned “Prom for a Cause.”
“Being involved with ASI, I was challenged to do more projects,” said Lukito. “I decided that I wanted to make one of my projects for this year ‘Prom for a Cause’ because I also have the heart to get more involved with the human sex trafficking.”
Guests were dressed to impress in former prom dresses or tuxedos for the banquet and dance Thursday night. Dinner was served buffet style with chicken, pasta, salad, vegetables and dessert before different speakers took the floor.
The Bronco Events and Activities Team branch of ASI teamed up with Campus Crusade for Christ [Cru] as co-hosts and organizers of the event.
Allison Mayo, a first-year hotel and restaurant management student, helped publicize the event because she is a member of Cru.
“It’s like a prom slash actual banquet,” said Mayo. “Last year, they had a great success rate; a lot more people than they thought. I think they had like 200 people who came out, so my role was more publicity and getting the word out.”
Keynote speakers from different organizations were invited to speak about human sex trafficking and why it should be a cause people are aware of. Oasis is an organization whose mission is to end slavery, one community at a time. More locally, Traffick Free Pomona tries to raise awareness for human trafficking in local schools, churches and neighborhoods.
Josh Larsen, a fifth-year mechanical engineering student, is a member of Traffick Free Pomona. He invited one of the keynote speakers, Amy Andrews, to tell her personal story of being a survivor of human trafficking.
Andrews was brainwashed and threatened at age 13. She was controlled my several men who pimped out girls and made them perform acts unwillingly by using fear as the main tactic. Today, she is an advocate for raising awareness because she was saved through similar programs.
Jeff Snawder, a co-leader of Traffick Free Pomona, was the first person Andrews told her story to after years of silence.
“Some of the things we’ve done is we’ve gotten a little square at the fair and handed out materials to raise awareness to the community,” said Snawder. “We also have a poster campaign in some of the schools in [the] Pomona Unified School District that will have a number to call if you witness something that might be trafficking.”
Larsen, who has been involved with Traffick Free Pomona for a year and a half, is an example of the young people who are making a change.
“I think it started when I went to Thailand about three years ago on a short trip doing a water project,” said Larsen. “I didn’t know anything about human trafficking and hadn’t seen anything. Then I came back and started reading more about Thailand and I realized trafficking is in the states too. This is here and people here have been affected by it. All of us are someone or know someone that was sexually abused.”
With human trafficking becoming more visible to young people, events such as “Prom for a Cause” are able to raise money.
“I’ve seen that so much just in the past year alone, the young people are stepping up and they’re passionate about it and they’re making a change,” said Snawder. “They have got the real pulse of what’s going on within their groups and they have been amazing at being able to raise a movement. I mean, all these people paid for a ticket to get in here knowing what the cause was going to be about, so that’s pretty amazing. I’ve been to other events where I haven’t seen that kind of appreciation or commitment to the movement.”
Oasis and Traffick Free Pomona members encouraged guests to get to know each other and make a freedom bag. These bags are given to law enforcement officials to give to victims exiting slavery.
“Normally, what they’ll have in them is shampoo and blankets and stuffed animals and stuff that shows we love them,” said Snawder.
Around 100 students gathered in their prom attire to support the cause and become more aware and knowledgeable of human trafficking happening in their community.
“A lot of people don’t know about it and they don’t know that it’s an actual problem because they don’t see it happening, even though it happens around Pomona,” said Mayo.
Lukito hopes the event will continue to help raise awareness in the community.
“Girls are already insecure growing up and suddenly getting caught in the middle of human trafficking and feeling like no one loves them; that is heart breaking,” said Lukito.
Ivan Aguilar / The Poly Post
Students dance at the Second Annual Prom for a Cause
Students dance at the Second Annual Prom for a Cause held at the Kellogg West Conference Center and Hotel on Thursday