Varsity Basketball

Trinity Academy students pull the tarp back on human trafficking at basketball game

The Trinity Academy student section changed its theme from ‘white-out’ to human trafficking awareness at halftime of Tuesday night’s boys basketball game against Conway Springs High. They rolled a tarp over their heads and revealed their blue shirts underneath.

The idea was hatched in a journalism class of 11.

The Center for Combating Human Trafficking (CCHT) recently presented a five-week series on self-health and ways to guard against the risk of human trafficking. Junior Jaylee Hennessy, a student in Stacey Stamps’ journalism class, said it started as “something small” and turned into a school-wide campaign during human-trafficking awareness month.

“It was a lot of talking with students because we didn’t know what direction to go to,” Hennessy said.

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Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

The students created what they called a “Prevent 2” campaign to spread awareness not only for themselves but for at least one other person. From there, the students of the TA Blade, Trinity’s student-run media group, designed staff T-shirts that read “25 million enslaved.” Hennessy said that represents the estimated total of people worldwide who are caught under the veil of human trafficking.

“It came to us as a passion to raise awareness through Wichita,” she said. “It’s not just happening worldwide, it’s happening in our city.”

Then the effort went a step further. A Trinity parents group bought shirts for each of the school’s roughly 300 students to get everyone involved. And the Trinity administration approved Jan. 29 as a Prevent 2 spirit-wear day, a change from the usual school uniform.

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Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

The in-class series was powerful, Stamps said. They talked about rape, violence, sexting, among other deep topics, she said. There is a stereotype that small, private, Christian-school students live in a bubble, Stamps said. That bubble pops when kids use social media.

That’s where human trafficking can begin, she said.

“Parents aren’t on social media,” Stamps said. “Predators are.”

Trinity sophomore Ashley Sawyer said the talks were different from those that took place when other speakers visited their class. The CCHT wasn’t there to scare the students into the dangers of human trafficking, but to outline paths toward better self-health. And that message didn’t go in one ear and out the other, she said.

The session leader said everyone is wired for connection, and that’s a good thing, Stamps said. Positive, healthy relationships were stressed.

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Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

As the students started to raise more awareness through the school, the CCHT honored Trinity Academy for its outstanding efforts. The students traveled to the CCHT’s national conference, where several students spoke on stage, Stamps said.

The students aren’t done. They are creating a video to further spread awareness that will be shown in school May 1 and worldwide by the CCHT.

Sawyer said many of the students have been genuinely affected by the series. Watching the entire student section get behind it Tuesday night was eye-opening.

“We just made sure we asked most of the student body, and they joined in,” Sawyer said. “You could tell they really wanted to help.”

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Wichita Eagle preps reporter Hayden Barber brings the area updates on all high school sports while adding those hard-to-find human-interest stories on Wichita’s student-athletes.