Global Connection: Fighting human trafficking

College of Education students participating in outdoor games and activities with children from the Ruth School in Bucharest, Romania, this summer.Fifteen students traveled to Romania this summer to study human trafficking and learn how complex the industry can be as part of a new College of Education study abroad course.

In Romania, 69 percent of human trafficking victims never completed middle school, 46 percent were younger than 18, and 11 percent were recruited by relatives and spouses, according to 2013 statistics from the Romanian National Agency Against Trafficking Persons.

Julie Leventhal, a lecturer in educational psychology, led students through Romania to help individuals and families recognize warning signs for human trafficking. Before students departed for the three-week experience, Leventhal spent four days in the classroom preparing them for the trip, and they met for another four days after they returned.

"Preventing human trafficking requires things that don't necessarily seem related: building relationships with kids when they are young, teaching parents how to interact with children and helping families identify higher risk situations," Leventhal says.

Students worked with the Open Door Foundation, an emergency shelter for trafficking victims; the Ruth School, a community school primarily for disadvantaged children from Roma families; and many nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations.

"Working with these organizations had a profound impact on all the students. It was very sobering and humbling," says Hayli Boren, a sophomore integrative studies major.

"I learned that the legal repercussions for human trafficking are low, and it shocked me. There is a legitimate need for people on the law side of things fighting for this cause."

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