Campus hosts forum on human trafficking

By Elaine DeLeon

Cal Poly Pomona’s Center for Community Engagement hosted a community forum featuring the work of famous reporter Sheryl WuDunn last Tuesday.

The message of the forum intended to bring awareness and discussion to the university about human trafficking and its effects.

“The whole purpose was just to bring awareness to sex trafficking, especially in America. I know a lot people didn’t know that this happens here,” said Samantha Merlin, a fourth-year psychology student and a student volunteer at the event.

Sheryl WuDunn is the first Asian American to won the Pulitzer Prize. WuDunn’s work is rooted in combating sex trafficking. Alongside her husband, Nicholas Kristoff, WuDunn has written books such as “A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity”and “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.” The forum was a follow-up to the lecture WuDunn gave on Oct. 22 as part of the Kellogg Distinguished Public Lecture Series.

“She always goes back to help out with the local community or help out with a non-profit. I just wanted to expose that these are the people in our local community,” said Megan C. Samaniego, the volunteer coordinator at the Center for Community Engagement.

The event began with a presentation illustrating the statistics of sex trafficking occurring in the United States. Presenters explained that such crimes even exist in Pomona. Samaniego explained how women, both young and old, are brought into the sex trafficking business.

A brief segment of WuDunn’s documentary “A Path Appears,” which was based on her book, was played. The film showed the lives of women that were victims of sex trafficking but managed to escape it.

After the video, students gathered in groups and discussed what they had seen. Samaniego and student volunteers also got involved in the discussions.

“[The groups] allowed us to talk about it in a more personal way,” said Nancy Loza, a first-year sociology and criminology transfer student. “It felt more inviting.”

Samaniego said the forum revolved around an issue that students need to be aware of. To her, the event was a great opportunity for students to approach issues in the community. As the volunteer coordinator, her job is to connect students, staff, faculty and alumni to the surrounding community.

The Center for Community Engagement focuses on issues occurring in the Pomona area. The center chooses topics for community forums by looking for well-discussed issues in and around the university.

For several weeks, Samaniego had seen news reports involving sex trafficking; therefore, it was a timely issue for the center given WuDunn’s visit to CPP.

To Samaniego, the forum is the first step to find students who are passionate about this issue.

The Center for Community Engagement plans to bring a Pomona Police Department officer who combats sex trafficking to come to CPP as a follow-up to the forum.

Forum on human trafficking

Elaine Deleon / The Poly Post

Forum on human trafficking

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