With pride, we call Atlanta the Gateway of the Southeast, the Cradle of the Civil Rights Movement, the architect of the New South, the home of the world’s busiest airport and even “The City Too Busy to Hate.”
Yet it is sobering – no, make that heart-breaking – to know that it is also one of the biggest hubs of sex trafficking in the United States. The trade generates hundreds of millions of dollars in Atlanta alone through the exploitation of thousands of girls – some are our own students.
Last year, working with some amazing colleagues – Dr. Evelyn Mobley, Dr. Katika Lovett, Dr. Jacqueline Anthony and Daryl Rice, among others – we mobilized the district in advance of Super Bowl LIII (such mega-events create a magnet for this trade) to educate and protect our students.
We didn’t do it alone. As a community, we began working the first step to stop these crimes: education. Everyone must know the potential indicators of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking so that we can protect our children.
One victim is one too many.
Unfortunately, there are victims. And so we are blessed to have Wellspring Living.
Wellspring Living is one of APS’ beautiful partners. Wellspring Living’s vision is to see a world where every victim of sexual exploitation has access to transformative care. The organization provides specialized recovery services through three residential programs and two community-based programs. The programs provide transformative care through therapeutic services, education, life skills, and personal and professional development.
The partnership represents more than 300 impacted lives.
This weekend, I was humbled to accept the 2019 HOPE award on behalf of Atlanta Public Schools during Wellspring’s annual gala held at the Cobb Galleria.
I dedicated the award to Dr. Mobley, principal of Phoenix Academy and our very own “Merchant of Hope,” who attended the gala and spoke on a panel about APS’ work with Wellspring Living.
Through the partnership at Forrest Hills Academy, the Women’s Academy provides comprehensive services enabling women to move toward a pathway to living wage employment. At Phoenix Academy, a comprehensive model supports students by providing case management, therapy, access to food and clothing through our team. (The school has its own food pantry and clothing boutique!) Wellspring Living also hosts parent empowerment and healing circles in Dunbar Elementary.
It’s so clear that we don’t do the work for awards and recognition. We do it because not only are we charged with preparing students to live choice-filled lives, we must make sure they are safe along the way.
That’s why we work with Wellspring Living. That’s why I serve on the Georgians for Refuge, Action, Compassion, and Education (GRACE) Commission, which was launched by First Lady Marty Kemp this spring to fight human trafficking across the state. That’s why we are committed to working with the community to put an end to sex trafficking in our city!