Students Testify In Support Of Legislation To Fight Human Trafficking

ELIZABETH — Benedictine Academy students offered “advocacy support” for legislation that went before the NJ State Assembly’s Judiciary Committee on Oct. 15 in Trenton.

A “Freedom Partner” team of 12 students traveled from the Academy to Trenton with school advisors to testify at a hearing on Bill A-3352, the “Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act.” The result of more than a year’s worth of research and consultations with experts and advocates, the legislation, sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle would crack down on every aspect of human trafficking. That includes revising and expanding the state’s current laws to create a human trafficking commission; criminalizing additional activities related to human trafficking; upgrading certain penalties on existing human trafficking or trafficking related crimes; increasing protections afforded to victims of human trafficking; and providing for increased training and public awareness of human trafficking issues.

Benedictine Academy has become deeply involved in educating its own students and making others aware of this threat to young and old alike. The young women who brought their presence to the Trenton Assembly hearing spoke eloquently against the crime of human trafficking and urged legislators to act to pass the legislation. The bill was approved by the Judiciary Committee, the first step in moving it to the legislature for consideration and approval. Students at the Academy are working as “Freedom Partners” with the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation to educate themselves and others about the modern day form of slavery in an effort to eradicate it.

Benedictine Academy “Freedom Partner” students listen in the House Committee Gallery in Trenton during testimony regarding Bill A-3352, the “Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act” on Oct. 15. Pictured, (l-r) back row: Karina Costa of Hillside, Joyce Mendoza of Union, Marina Santiago of Newark, Mary Palma of Union, Kayla Roque of Newark, and Ewa Kowalczyk and Sydney Sigue, both of Elizabeth; (l-r) front row: Benedictine Academy Director of Guidance Sr. Donna Jo Repetti, OSF, Elizabeth Police Sergeant Mike Jones, Jada Yarbough of Elizabeth, Vanessa Fragiacomo of Kearny, and Eileen Conaty of Clark. (Photo courtesy of Benedictine Academy)

At the Statehouse in Trenton on Oct. 15: Benedictine Academy students Karol Pierre of Vauxhall; Kayla Roque and Marina Santiago, both of Newark; Karina Costa of Hillside; Joyce Mendoza of Union; Elizabeth Police Sergeant Mike Jones; student Mary Palma; Bergen County Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, sponsor of the anti-human trafficking legislation; Benedictine Academy Campus Minster Linda Michalski; student Jada Yarbough of Elizabeth; Benedictine Academy Guidance Director Sister Donna Jo Repetti, OSF; Union County Assemblywoman Annette Quijano; students Ewa Kowalczyk and Sydney Sigue of Elizabeth; Vanessa Fragiacomo of Kearny; Eileen Conaty of Clark; and Jacob Toporek, Esq. Executive Director of the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations, which is supporting the anti-human trafficking legislation. (Photo courtesy of Benedictine Academy)

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