Manatee High students produce eye-opening program on slavery

December 15, 2012 

The concept borders on a no-brainer: Teach likely targets of a crime how to spot the traps into victimization. Human traffickers and their cohorts prey on teenagers to enslave into prostitution. Youngsters should know the danger signs.

This week Manatee High School students heard those messages and more during eye-opening presentations on international Human Rights Day.

Schools usually shy away from the slavery issue as too sensational. But Nola Theiss, the executive director of Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships Inc., noted that educating students is critical. As one of the presenters Monday, Theiss pointed out some of the threats -- even high school girls who recruit friends into the sex trade.

Kudos to the two student organizations that spent months producing this program -- the Z Club and Peace Jam. Manatee High's Z Club has a foundational connection to the issue, being sponsored by Zonta International of Sarasota. Zonta advocates for women's issues, with a focus on human trafficking.

The student clubs not only arranged for human rights speakers but recruited the Florida Modern Slavery Museum. Members of the Student Farmworker Alliance brought the museum's mobile unit to the school and discussed migrant labor slavery, still prevalent in Florida, and farmworker poverty.

Since education and awareness equal protection, this impressive student-led program could be a valuable learning experience throughout the school district.

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