Students Fighting for Freedom

Cy Woods High School teens work to educate and donate to causes combatting human trafficking

Written by Gail G. Collins | Photography by Candace Cook

Cypress, TX News - Students at Cy Woods High School rev up a gym packed with an audience of high schoolers. Multiple performers take to the stage, including the talented vocalist, Holly Tucker, from the hit show, The Voice. It would be easy to think it is just teens groovin’ to the tunes. This is a benefit event, hosted by an abolitionist group with a mission to inform, fundraise, and contribute to combatting human trafficking. Ironically, these students could be exploited by the trafficking trade in another set of circumstances.

Cy Woods Freedom Club sponsored this benefit and previous concerts to draw attention and educate the public regarding this violation of human rights. This year, Freedom Club sold 135 tickets and raised $2,100. Love 146 chair rep Derielle Keiser says, “We work to fundraise and bring awareness to organizations such as Love 146, Free the Captives, A21, and As Our Own. It is important that our members are passionate about our cause – ending human trafficking.”

Members of the Cy Woods High School Freedom Club Derielle Keiser, Ryan Lucker, Rachael Hearn, Drishti Wadhwa, and Kristen Stubbe

Stolen Childhoods
Recent raids in Houston have shined a light on this once hidden horror. An estimated 27 million children worldwide are exploited for manual and sexual labor, and 3 million of them are in Houston. The average age is 12 years old, and a childhood is stolen every 30 seconds. “It’s hard to imagine what it’s like to be in their situation,” Keiser says. “The reality of it all makes me want to do whatever possible to help those enslaved not only in our city, but around the world.”

Cy Woods special education teacher Tom Fox woke up to the reality of enslaved children while attending a church event. He later became Freedom Club’s sponsor. “The kids stepped up to the plate, setting up the mission, the rules, the organization, and events,” he says. “It’s a pure blessing to work with them.” The members earn service hours, but they are earnestly motivated by the cause.

Thomas Fox is a special education teacher at Cy Woods and serves as the club’s sponsor

Local and Global Outreach
Freedom Club president Rachael Hearne says, “I can’t fathom the brokenness that is behind both the acts and the results of this devastation.” Members work with local and international organizations that offer a variety of programs. Outreach is achieved through awareness, deterrence, prevention, and aftercare. Some organizations are faith-based while others are not, but all have a common vision – to end human slavery and trafficking.

Free the Captives’ deterrence campaign in radio, TV, and billboards warns: “Buy sex? Bye, bye freedom!” A21 vows to abolish injustice in the 21st century. The organization prevents trafficking through awareness and education, providing curriculum and presentations to vulnerable children in schools, orphanages, and universities. As Our Own works to rescue those have been exploited, provides recovery by embracing and caring for survivors, and advocates tactics for at-risk teens to avoid becoming a victim.

Love 146, who received 100% of the donations from the recent concert at Cy Woods, strategizes to empower a movement. They work in survivor care, prevention, and training. The group empowers abolitionists to give greater momentum to grassroots efforts. They believe this illegal trade is highly organized, and likewise, needs a highlyorganized movement to fight it. “The majority of our efforts are devoted to fundraising and raising awareness of the issues that are happening in our own backyard,” adds Keiser.

Freedom Club members raise funds to support organizations including As Our Own, Free the Captives, and Love 146

Become an Activist
Students are encouraged to become activists to end childhood slavery and trafficking. High school junior Drew Sullivan joined the leadership of Freedom Club for this reason. “I wanted to promote a greater awareness of human slavery that still exists in the world to high school students in the hopes that they would see that this is still a very real and prominent problem.”

Passionate teens of Freedom Club help vulnerable young people in Houston and around the globe escape bondage; it is a life-changing experience for everyone involved. CFM

GAIL G. COLLINS writes for magazines internationally, seeking to shine a light on good causes and good people.