Advocating as Adolescents: Human Trafficking
by Da-Sol Kim
At a prayer vigil this April, Pope Francis told youth, “The world today needs young people…who feel a call, who feel that life offers them a mission. Young people who..are on the go. The world can change only if young people are on the go” . The students of Mitty Advocacy Project (MAP)—as well as Catholic students all around California—understood his message intimately when we came together at Sacramento to lobby on March 28th. On Catholic Youth Advocacy Network (CYAN), students attempted to make a difference within our own communities, looking towards a step to the ideals of equality and justice.
CYAN was a day for students to advocate our own beliefs. Praying for peace and solutions to today’s issues, we first attended mass in solidarity with one another and with people around the world. At the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, the students collaborated with one another during the workshops afterwards. MAP ran two of these.
This school year, MAP campaigned for four main issues: human trafficking, mental health, criminal justice reform, and immigration. In particular, the issues facing immigrants disheartened us. Knowing many fellow students and family members who were immigrants, we were compelled to advocate for them in a time of unrest. In honor of the immigrants who helped form the Archbishop Mitty High School community, Timothy Simka and Catherine Peterson at MAP created the “This is America” video project. During a stop motion video, we gathered pictures of immigrants in students’ ancestries, forming a map of the U.S. with their faces. Nine of us (Olivia Cunningham, Brandon Milliken, Jessica Olivera, Nichole Lim, Supna Kapoor, Jay Houston, Trisha Karani, Catherine, and Tim) showed this video to other students in a CYAN workshop, where we presented our work for immigration.
Human trafficking was another issue we felt strongly about, as we have for over a decade. This year’s trip was especially exciting because of a new bill that would impact us greatly: AB-1227, the Human Trafficking Prevention Education and Training Act. Sponsored by Assembly members Rob Bonta, Evan Low, and David Chiu, this bill would require school districts to teach students and faculty about the warning signs of sexual abuse and human trafficking. In addition, it would allocate funds to help child trafficking victims by providing services and intervening in trafficking cases . Since the majority of victims are minors and teenagers like us, we saw this bill as an important step to preventing the erosion of our community’s moral standards. In an effort to explain the issue of human trafficking, Vedya Konda and I ran another workshop detailing this year’s bills on the issue.
In Sacramento, we met with seven local congressional representatives to ask for their support on a few bills. Over the course of two hours, we managed to talk to Assembly members Evan Low, Ash Kalra, Kansen Chu, Anna Caballero, Rob Bonta, Mark Berman, and Senator Bob Wieckowski. A major highlight of our day was when Assembly members Evan Low, Ash Kalra, and Kansen Chu personally greeted us and listened to our stories. We discussed our beliefs personally with Assembly members Low and Kalra, who listened and supported us. As avid admirers of these representatives, we were thrilled. In an indelible moment, Assembly member Low even took a few of us to the House floor.
All of us at MAP hope that we made a difference on that day. We at CYAN sought to represent the young, non-voting population; in doing so, we united as a group seeking hope and dignity for all. As teenagers, we feel strongly about the rights and beliefs we were supporting; we seek to accomplish those ideals. In support of every human’s right to respect, we spoke out—not just as youths or Catholics, but as fellow human beings.