TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Monday kicks off News Literacy Week. Our goal this week is to Inspire the new storytellers of tomorrow.
Our parent company E.W. Scripps teamed up with the News Literacy Project, and all the local Scripps TV stations to allow students across the country to tell stories that are important to them and learn how vital it is to fact-check and get out the truth.
We here at ABC 27 worked with the Journalism students at Leon High school who got a chance to create a story on a topic of their choice and take over our studio. The students chose to tackle human trafficking.
When it comes to human trafficking, Florida is third in the country. It's an issue that students feel needs to be addressed now.
They're hoping their story helps bring awareness to a problem many people might not even realize exists.
So what is human trafficking? When ABC 27 first asked students at Leon High, many students were unaware of the danger that could potentially become their reality.
"Oh boy, I don't know anything about human trafficking... slavery?" said Wilson Roberts, a Leon High School student.
"See when I think of human trafficking, I think of like, actual traffic," Keiron Major, a sophomore at Leon High School said.
"Basically like modern day slavery."
Mia Sweeney, another student a Leon High said, "I guess it would be like, not necessarily like the black market, but I think also people like going to people's cars and stuff and taking them out of parking lots."
Students like Wilson, Keiron and Mia learn about everything from AP Calculus to yoga. But the issue of human trafficking doesn't make its way into the classroom.
What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking is the use of force, fraud or threats to get some type of work or sex act.
Human trafficking is a $150 billion business, according to advocacy group 'Human Rights First.'
Tallahassee’s Survive and Thrive Advocacy Center, or STAC, tracks cases of trafficking locally. A study from 2015 to 2017 found there were more than 330 possible victims of trafficking in the Big Bend.
"I think human trafficking is general, is this generations and this time period's greatest human rights issue," said Michael Newsome, a FSU graduate student.
Since age 16, FSU graduate student Michael Newsome has spent his summers in Ecuador working with The Hope House, a ministry dedicated to rescuing young girls out of sex trafficking and providing education and life skills.
Over the years, he's learned that education and awareness are key to stopping the crime anywhere in the world, including in Tallahassee.
"We have three colleges, a major interstate that runs through here, and so we're able to partner with universities and sheriff's departments and companies that move products," Newsome explained. "It's crucial that they are aware."
"There was this lady on Virginia Street was going up to people's cars and telling them that she was a part of the FBI and they needed to go with her," said Avery Howard, a Leon High senior.
What are the signs to watch out for?
If you feel that someone is a victim of trafficking there are some things the department of health and human services says you need to look out for.
- Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
- Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
- Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends OR community organizations?
"It could be happening in your own backyard, your next-door neighbor, your favorite restaurant, where you buy your groceries," said Robin Hassler Thompson, the executive director of STAC. "It's important to understand what trafficking is all about."
STAC says stopping the crime starts with people acknowledging that it's happening.