Student fights to end human trafficking
Stephanie Hernandez, a junior at the University of St. Thomas, has been fighting the scourge of human trafficking for several years, and she recently helped organize an event that brings awareness to the issue.
Hernandez, along with several other students and professors, put together a National Sleep Out event on the University of St. Thomas campus, which is an annual, national effort to build empathy toward the plight of the homeless by spending a night in the open without the comforts that so many take for granted.
For Hernandez, though, there was an additional benefit to the event. It gave her a chance to bring wider attention to human trafficking, which is a rampant problem among the homeless community, particularly among homeless women.
“I’ve been aware of the issue of human trafficking since I was about 12 years old, and ever since coming to college, I’ve wanted to find a way that I could get involved,” Hernandez said. “I found this group, SWAT, that was established in 2009, and I tried to become involved in as many ways as I could.”
SWAT, which stands for Students Working against Trafficking, was the perfect outlet for Hernandez, who was elected president of the group this semester, as it has allowed her to have a forum to address the issue.
At the National Sleep Out event on Nov. 10, Hernadez gave a short talk about the connection between homelessness and trafficking, which she says is common.
“The majority of the time, when American girls are taken into the situation of sex trafficking, it’s usually because they’re homeless,” Hernandez said. “It’s just really sad.”
She tried to maximize the realism of the scenario by bringing only a thin mat and a blanket to the event in a deliberate attempt to eschew as many of her ordinary comforts as possible.
Hernandez plans to stay deeply involved with these issues after she graduates from St. Thomas.
“Ideally, I would like to work for an organization like Polaris Project or another abolitionist organization,” she said. “I would definitely like to make working with these research organizations about human trafficking a career.”
ABOUT STEPHANIE HERNANDEZ
COMMUNITY CONNECTION: Resident of Cy-Fair area
FAST FACT: Worked as an intern for Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition