Human trafficking can occur in all areas and affect all populations. While Mundelein is no different in this way than any other community, there is one factor that will soon set it apart.
Mundelein High School students are the first in the state to participate in a nationwide pilot program designed to prevent human trafficking.
The program, called TraffickSTOP and created by the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), is designed to equip students with knowledge and resources to identify and prevent human trafficking. In this first year of the pilot program.
“It’s really an important tool to prevent human trafficking,” District 120 Security Director Fred Kliora said. “The great thing about this pilot program is that it empowers the students to be self-reliant and strengthen their ability to fight back against this crime.”
TraffickSTOP is a voluntary extracurricular activity where high school students take a proactive approach to address the crime. In 12 meetings, students themselves lead interactive discussions to learn about the issues and brainstorm ways to engage their school and local task force partners.
Depending on the community, there may be more sex trafficking than the public is aware of, according to NW3C. Human trafficking occurs in all geographical areas and in all populations. Some individuals may be more vulnerable than others, but the issue can affect anyone, NW3C reports.
Kliora and School Resource Officer J.T. Schuldt of the Mundelein Police Department are facilitating the program at MHS.
The program addresses the two primary types of human trafficking: sex trafficking and labor trafficking. In the pilot program at MHS, students will not only learn practices to keep them safe online, develop skills to set boundaries, and discuss best practices for reporting, but they will also share the information with the entire student body. The last part of the TraffickSTOP program is an awareness week organized by students for students.
Throughout the program students will learn: the scope of the problem and best practices for reporting; about risk factors and prevention tactics; how relationship dynamics can develop online and in-person; what they can do if they are uncomfortable or feel unsafe; how to avoid misinformation; how to spot suspicious behavior; and how trafficking affects their community;.
MHS is collaborating with the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office and the NW3C. At the present time, we have fourteen students attending the program. The first meeting took place at MHS on Feb. 15. The program will continue until the end of the school year which will incorporate awareness week.