To raise awareness about human trafficking, which has become increasingly prevalent in California, College of the Canyons will host the one-day conference, “It Happens Right Here! Understanding Human Trafficking,” from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30.
The conference will be held at the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center, Room 258, located at the college’s Valencia campus.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, 682 cases of human trafficking have been reported in California this year. In May 2015, two Santa Clarita residents were arrested by the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force and convicted with sex trafficking charges.
“It is difficult to come to terms with the idea that human trafficking is something that happens in our very own backyard,” said Patty Robinson, faculty director of civic engagement and community engagement initiatives at the college and one of the event’s organizers. “We hope this conference helps raise awareness about this important issue while also identifying opportunities for collaboration in the Santa Clarita Valley and surrounding areas.”
Rachel Thomas, director of the Sowers Education Group, will be the conference’s keynote speaker. As an educator and survivor, Thomas will discuss cultural implications and mental health issues associated with human trafficking. She will also discuss her experiences as a survivor in order to shed light on the sex, cyber, and labor trafficking occurring in the U.S.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich and Rohida Khan, a victim assistance specialist at the Department of Homeland Security, will also share their insight and experiences at the conference.
Other event speakers will include:
* Sergeant Jeffrey Walker (Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department)
* Jessica Romo (Prevention Education Manager, Strength United)
* Betsy Meenk (USA Regional Director, ZOE)
* Carol Hart (President/Founder, ZOE)
* Eric Ball (Children’s Services Administrator/Program Manager, Department of Children and Family Services)
* Amber Davies, LCSW (Director of Clinical Programs, Saving Innocence)
* Dr. Makesha Jones-Chambers (Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health)
* Hanne Fellers (ZOE International)
* Becca Channel (Task Force Coordinator, Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force)
* Chris Lim (Director of Partnerships, Saving Innocence)
* Detective Ray Bercini (Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department)
* Joan Pera (Supervising Deputy Probation Officer, Los Angeles County Probation Department)
“We are looking forward to learning more on the topic of human trafficking from our diverse panel of speakers, many of whom have dealt with this issue first hand,” said Larry Schallert, assistant director of the Student Health and Wellness / Mental Health program at the college and one of the event’s organizers.
To RSVP for this free event, email CivicEngagement@canyons.edu.