High School Students Pledge Against Human Trafficking - KFYRTV.COM - Bismarck, ND - News, Weather, Sports

High School Students Pledge Against Human Trafficking

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Awareness of human trafficking in the U.S. is on the rise, thanks to groups like Find-Rescue-Embrace-Empower (FREE) International. The group says the biggest targets for trafficking are teens and children, which is why FREE teamed up with local organizations to host a program at Century High School.

Human trafficking is holding human beings against their will and trading them for money through sexual exploitation and/or forced labor. It's becoming a growing problem in North Dakota. FREE International was founded by a Williston native.

More than 100,000 children in the U.S. are exploited every year through human trafficking.

"The more we can empower our families, the more we can empower those to not be afraid, the less likely our North Dakota kids and women and families will be exploited," says FREE founder Michael Bartell.

FREE International is a group of speakers from around the country, traveling across the nation to speak to students about the signs for victims of human trafficking and how to stop it.

"The number one risk factor going into those who would exploit. What they look for isn't socioeconomic; it isn't races. It's self-esteem. And so, as we can get in and expose the lie in the schools before it's told, we can protect our own kids," says Bartell. 

The program was unique with comedy routines, several 3D presentations and dancing with teachers, but still presented the severity of human trafficking.

"It is so exciting. The energy here is riveting! The kids are attentive, the assembly itself is alive and fresh and very relevant. We are all learning how to stay safe," says FREE International of North Dakota member Donna Steckler.

And they still were able to present the severity of human trafficking. The presenters invited students to make a pledge to speak up and stop human trafficking.

"Because I have a personal experience with prostitutes, human trafficking, I have personal friends of, even you know, ex-girlfriends and stuff like that who became prostitutes. I just feel that to see that there's actual hope in prostitution ending eventually is really heart warming to me," says student Bryant Taylor.

"To be there for my friends and family, just because that's something that I can do to help. If we all come together, we'll make a difference. If people weren't so selfish all the time," says student Baeli Thacker.

FREE International says this is only the beginning, more programs are in the works.

FIND, or Free International North Dakota, sprang from FREE International, to build safe houses and help reform trafficking victims in North Dakota.

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