Fighting human trafficking

Bothell High played host to 200 students from 20 different schools during an April 22 forum aimed at confronting human trafficking.

Students flock to Bothell event

Bothell High played host to 200 students from 20 different schools during an April 22 forum aimed at confronting human trafficking.

The event was part of the Inter-High Exchange Program, which uses joint activities to foster solidarity among schools of the Kingco athletic conference.

The forum included a clothing sale fund-raiser, discussions about the root causes of human trafficking and a letter-writing campaign directed toward corporations that are accused of using unfair trade practices.

Attendees also participated in a candle-lighting ceremony to symbolize their resistance to human trafficking, considered by many to be a modern form of slavery.

“All of these people are learning how they can make a change,” said Bothell junior Karina Woodruff, who helped coordinate the forum as a member of her school’s Associated Student Body (ASB) club. “We wanted to get students involved and invite them to join the movement.”

Guest speakers included Erin Williamson of the Polaris Project and Greg Russinger of One Voice to End Slavery. Both organizations are dedicated to fighting human trafficking.

Bothell student Amanda Reeves also talked about her experience working in Thailand with Displaced Orphans International. Her parents founded the organization.

Human trafficking is, according to United Nations figures, a $9 billion-a-year industry that involves various forms of exploitation such as prostitution, child soldiering, forced labor, organ removal, illicit adoption and even sports participation.

Many victims are manipulated during times of extreme vulnerability, although some are kidnapped outright and placed into bondage.

Woodruff was the first to suggest human trafficking as the theme of this year’s Inter-High community service program. She had worked to confront the issue in the past with a youth group at Foursquare Church.

“I figured if a youth group could have an impact, I should see what an entire school could do,” she said. “We don’t have to be teens of rebellion. We can make this issue an important one. Our generation can make the change on this global issue.”

Bothell leadership teacher Valerie Spagnolo supervised planning for the forum, and says human trafficking wasn’t the topic she first had in mind for this year’s program.

“I figured it was going to be Earth Day, so we’d plant a tree and maybe clear some roads or trails,” she said. “I started reading books (about human trafficking) that Karina had recommended, and they really spoke to me.”

The Bothell High forum culminated a series of events that Bothell ASB and leadership students have coordinated this year to confront human trafficking.

Earlier events included a 120-guest fund-raising dinner that brought in over $6,000 for the International Justice Mission, as well as a Bothell High assembly featuring Trong and Rani Hong, who created the Tronie Foundation as survivors of human trafficking.

“Rani’s message is like: ‘Bam!’” Woodruff said. “You’re hearing a powerful testimonial about how this affects people’s lives.”

ASB also raised $800 during the Bothell-Inglemoor boys and girls basketball games in January, selling “Free to Play” T-shirts outside the gymnasium.

The slogan represents one of the liberties that human trafficking denies its victims. Others included “Free to Create” and “Free to Learn.”

Players wore the shirts as warm-up gear to promote the fund-raiser and raise awareness about the cause.

“If you were to ask someone from our high school about human trafficking, they could probably tell you at least a little bit about it now,” said Bothell Inter-High representative Molly Kutsick. “Hopefully, they’ll tell others, and it starts a chain reaction.”