373: First Annual “Prevention Power” Event at Stars Complex in Ft. Myers

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First Annual Prevention Power Event at Stars Complex in Ft. Myers: A Joint Venture of Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships, City of Ft. Myers and Youth Services Coalition.

March 2017 The Community Press

January is National Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month. It is a time when we can all become empowered to stop human trafficking before it occurs in our neighborhoods and cities. Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships (HTAP) works with many community groups, such as the Stars Complex and the Youth Services Coalition year round to prevent trafficking. In January, HTAP initiated 5 proclamations to honor Prevention Month which were used to recognize local organizations’ action by 5 local governments.

On January 14, the Dr. Ann Murphy Knight Stars Complex opened its doors to 12 agencies in Lee County that wanted to help educate students about trafficking. Each agency was given a “human trafficking fact” and as kids came by their table with a card, they were taught about that fact and given a sticker when they could tell what they learned. When they accumulated 12 facts, they were quizzed at the head table and if they knew 9 answers, they were given a completion price. Smaller prizes were given to everyone who participated. Over 152 students received completion prizes and at least 250 in total kids came to see the artwork and participate in the learning experience.

Artwork from many of the programs that had been held in the summer of 2016 in the Dunbar area were exhibited and many of the artists came to the event and were proud to describe the paintings to others.

Through our art programs held at afterschool programs, community and church classes and summer camps, Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships reaches hundreds of kids ranging from 8 to 18 every year. This year we have been invited into the public schools at the high school and middle school principals’ discretion to give lessons to students in their classes and at assemblies. We realize that teachers are busy with the many demands of their schedules, but we believe learning how to protect oneself from human trafficking should be a priority. There is currently a law being considered in the Florida legislature to make human trafficking education mandatory. Your children have the opportunity now to learn how to protect themselves in their schools today if you as a parent let the principal of your child’s school know that you want the program in your school now.

Prevention and Awareness from the top down is important, but it must also come at the family, neighborhood, school and community level. What would you rather do: Read stories of young people becoming entrapped or tricked into a life of labor or sex trafficking or view artwork done by youth who have learned how to recognize the signs of trafficking and how protect themselves from traffickers before situations arise before them that they are not prepared to handle?

HTAP is proud to work with the many organizations in the Dunbar community and throughout Lee County who want to protect their children from the terror of human trafficking.