EDISON — The Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison held an informative symposium on Human Trafficking for Upper School students on March 11.
The day began with Divya Mehta of Edison and Ayan Ahmed of Scotch Plains giving a trafficking myth or fact quiz to the students. They discovered that their peers actually know more than they expected about the day’s featured topic. The students also viewed President Obama’s speech from the Clinton Global Initiative before attending various breakout sessions by class.
“I’m really ecstatic about the whole day,” said Divya, who worked with Mrs. Susan Ritter of Westfield, Director of Global Learning, to organize the symposium. “We’ve been planning this day since November and brainstorming about it a little bit every day. It really came together very nicely.”
State Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa highlighted the program with his keynote address in the AP Room. Mr. Chiesa, who has been involved in the prosecution of criminal cases involving bank robbery, child pornography, human trafficking and identity theft, spoke to students about human trafficking cases in New Jersey. He also shared that the Super Bowl, which is coming to New Jersey in 2014, is the single biggest human trafficking event in the world.
Students rotated into breakout sessions throughout the morning. Jennifer Chan, Program Officer for the US Fund for UNICEF, shared real stories with students in Laidlaw Gym. Joseph Roth, President and CEO of New Jersey Sharing Network and Elisse Glennon, Executive Director, met with students in the school’s Oakwood Room. Ms. Dawn Francavilla of Somerset, Ayan Ahmed of Scotch Plains and Aditya Dalal of Scotch Plains led the Slavery Footprint session. Art instructor Gale Goldman, English Dept. Chair Dr. Dave Berry, Ashni Mehta of Piscataway, Emily Wexler of Scotch Plains and Alex Rappold of Plainfield led poster presentation workshops. Ms. Dina Congregane, the school counselor, Divya Mehta of Edison and Mike Olano of South Plainfield helped groups in the Road to REBBL breakout session.
The program continued after lunch with two presentations and a documentary film. Natalie Jesionka, who is a lecturer, reporter and human rights activist, made a presentation via Skype from Istanbul, Turkey to share details of her work in Thailand and show the trailer of her upcoming documentary, “Selling Our Daughters.” Students also viewed the short documentary film Not My Life.
The program concluded with Malika Quemerais, manager of Music and Celebrity Talent at MTV Networks, making a presentation called End Exploitation and Human Trafficking.
“I think it really had a big impact,” said Divya, who founded Liberate the Chains, an organization dedicated to raising awareness and helping fuel global work to investigate human trafficking and create new futures for survivors. “This is something that’s going on around the world. It’s always better to know more about the world around you.”