Texas A&M University-San Antonio will host its second annual Anti-Human Trafficking Conference from 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. Jan. 23 via Zoom.
The conference will have various speakers, including keynote speaker Cyntoia Brown-Long. Brown-Long was a victim of sex trafficking and received nationwide support after her story was covered by many media outlets, such as NPR. She is now an advocate for other victims of trafficking.
“(Trafficking) happens all the time, everywhere,” Allie Beedle, service learning coordinator at A&M-San Antonio, said. “There are people who are more at risk, and if you are in a privileged situation, it is your responsibility to be an advocate.”
College students in particular should be aware of the risks of human trafficking.
“Students are a very vulnerable population,” Beedle said. “It’s important for them to understand what they should be looking at, both in their online activity as well as in person. It’s important for us to educate our students on what kind of risks they’re taking when they’re having social interactions and for them to be aware in general.”
The conference was the brainchild of an A&M-San Antonio student. Communications senior Dana Michea Marquez initiated both conferences and coordinated last year’s event.
“I noticed that there was a lack in education and awareness among our own students at Texas A&M in regards to awareness in human trafficking,” Marquez said. “With COVID going on right now, students are more online than ever before and that’s actually the No. 1 place that traffickers target students.”
An expert panel on “What We Need to Know” will feature Chuck Paul, director of Outreach and CST Services at Roy Maas Youth Alternatives; Dr. Helen Mireles, victim assistant specialist with the Department of Homeland Security; and Norma Estimbo-Graebener, communications relations officer with U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement according to an A&M-San Antonio webpage on the conference.
Eight breakout sessions covering topics such as relational health and safety will include presentations by A&M-San Antonio staff members, according to the webpage. Catherine E. Love-Washington, a counselor at the Student Counseling Center, and officer Karen Tucker-Engel of the University Police Department’s Office of Victim Services and Crime Prevention, will discuss healthy characteristics of relationships and signs of abuse.
Apart from getting an education on how to avoid human trafficking, participants can enter virtual drawings for giveaways to stay involved and raise awareness about human trafficking.
The event is part of San Antonio’s DreamWeek. DreamWeek is an annual summit inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. in hopes of creating citywide conversations on equity and inclusion.