Reynoldsburg News

Continuing awareness efforts

Students writing play about human trafficking

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Reynoldsburg High School students who helped organized the "Break Every Chain" awareness conference about human trafficking earlier this year are using what they have learned as the basis of a play to be staged next January.

"We're bouncing around names right now for the play and have four acts written out," said Reynoldsburg City Councilman Cornelius McGrady III, who has been working with the students. "I told the kids that I want people not only to grasp that the victims did not know what was happening, but I want this to be as real as real can get.

"We have interviewed survivors and will take that information and possibly include videos," he said.

The members of the Reynoldsburg Youth Human Trafficking Coalition were honored last month by the school board. Receiving certificates of appreciation were Imnet Arega, Savannah Henkle, Scotty Holcomb Jr., Maysa Salash, Myles Stanley and Janee Williams, all of BELL Academy; Noel Boykin of eSTEM Academy and Ryan Owens of Encore Academy.

McGrady said the target date for finishing the play is the end of August.

"Encore Principal Katy Myers has expressed interest in using the play as a Capstone project for her students," he said. "The play is scheduled to be performed by Encore students Jan. 15, 2015.

"Once the writing of the play is complete, we will finalize preparation for the next Human Trafficking Awareness Conference," he said, adding that it likely will take place Jan. 10, 2015.

Henkle, Holcomb and Williams are seniors who will graduate in May, but Boykin is a freshman and will return as co-chair of the group next school year, along with Stanley, who is a junior. Arega, Shalash and Owens also plan on staying in the group and working on the play next school year.

"We want the play to have a spiritual spin as well and have planned an ending that is phenomenal," McGrady said. "I already have an instructor lined up for the dance scene. I think the play is going to be fantastic."

Survivors of human trafficking who attended the January conference described being tricked into prostitution as teenagers, then sold to men in hotels in Columbus and all over the state, including Reynoldsburg.

"I learned it could be my friend or cousin and that this could happen to anyone, even someone in my family," Boykin said. "We want to educate people so that we can stop this crime."

The "Break Every Chain" awareness conference at the high school's Summit Road campus brought together trafficking survivors, community leaders, state legislators and law enforcement personnel.

McGrady called human trafficking the "fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the country."

He has been meeting with Reynoldsburg Youth Human Trafficking Coalition monthly and has already talked to the high school principals to let them know he will be available for the group next school year.

"I shared with the administrators that there were more students who wanted to join the group," he said. "So I told them I would make myself available two times a week to accommodate kids at Summit.

"I am not going away until God says it is time," he said. "This is a significant problem and these kids, from freshmen to seniors, can bring an important awareness to this issue."

Information about human trafficking and its victims is available online from the Central Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition at centralohiorescueandrestore.org.

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