The Annual Summer Human Trafficking Academy offered a unique vision to confronting commercial sexual exploitation: analyzing the problem and exploring solutions through the lens of integral human development. It aimed at empowering various stakeholders, including survivors of sex trafficking, with a well-rounded understanding of the circumstances that factor into human vulnerability – an elemental dimension of human trafficking. Through case studies, the Academy contextualized sex trafficking around sporting events, such as the Super Bowl.
Over one hundred social service providers, state and federal law enforcement officers, prosecutors, health care providers, child protection investigators, faith-based organizations, and members of community came together in an “opportunity to interact and collaborate with an audience of professional practitioners and a dedicated core of extremely qualified speakers,” as observed by Benjamin Botero, a professor of criminal justice at Broward College and annual participant of the Summer Academy since 2017.
The Academy opened with remarks from its Founder and Director, Dr. Roza Pati, Professor of Law, who introduced this year’s theme and the concept of integral human development. Law School Dean Tamara Lawson and Rev. Monsignor Franklyn M. Casale, President Emeritus of St. Thomas University, welcomed the participants to the St. Thomas family. United States Senator Marco Rubio wrote to the Academy participants, stating, inter alia, “Through your hard work and passion for combating this horror, each of you is helping to make a safer and more humane place for us all. Know that these victims have a champion in each of you fighting for their justice. On behalf of the people of Florida, I offer my thanks and appreciation for all the good work the John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy has done for the victims of human trafficking.” Senator Rubio’s office was represented by Ms. Lea Padron, Regional Director.
The weeklong training was taught by a distinguished team of expert instructors including among others: Callahan Walsh and Staca Shehan of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children; Barbara A. Martinez, U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Florida; The Honorable Kristy M. Nunez, County Court Judge, 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida; Shanika Ampah and Connie Rose, Survivors; Dr. Donna M. Hughes, University of Rhode Island; Ana I. Vallejo, VIDA Legal Assistance; Brenda Mezick, Assistant State Attorney; Maria Clara Harrington, Citrus Health Network, Inc.; Dotti Groover-Skipper, The Salvation Army and Florida Statewide Council on Human Trafficking.
A highlight of the Academy was hearing from Callahan Walsh of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. During his course, Mr. Walsh expressed his appreciation to a cohort of twenty St. Thomas University nursing students attending the Academy saying, “You’re often times the ones who can spot [human trafficking] first, and you’re often times the ones that can get the child separated from their exploiter . . .” said Walsh.
Anila Kutulla, a nursing student at St. Thomas University remarked, “I had an incredible learning experience from the rich variety of courses taught by expert instructors. As a future healthcare provider, the Summer Academy was invaluable to train and educate myself and fellow nursing colleagues on human trafficking, including how to identify victims through proper assessment and interviewing skills as we begin our careers. The Summer Academy has empowered us to combat human trafficking within our profession for many years to come.”
Other highlights included the delivery of the Keynote Address by The Honorable Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade County State Attorney, entitled From Discovering the Myths to Exposing the Realities of Human Trafficking. Attendees also had the opportunity to hear from a leading international researcher on sex trafficking of women, Dr. Donna M. Hughes, presenting on Demand Accelerators: A Culture of Commercial Sexual Exploitation. Mr. Carl Berry, Head of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Unit Jamaica Constabulary Force and INTERPOL Expert, inspired with his presentation and expertise on Sex Trafficking in the Caribbean Basin: The Case of Jamaica. The Honorable Kristy M. Nunez, County Court Judge, 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida, provided tremendous insight on profiles of buyers and their role in the business of commercial sexual exploitation as contextualized through the business marketing of major sporting events, such as the Super Bowl.
The last day of the Academy was based on the theme From Victim to Warrior: The Integral Development of the Person, which consisted of several sessions led by survivors of human trafficking. This day’s curriculum took participants on a journey that brought to life the need for an integral human development approach that enable a survivor to successfully thrive in whatever they endeavor in life, as they rise as leaders in our global community.
“The Academy remains at the forefront of educating those that provide social justice and have a passion for human rights and making a difference. The Summer Academy surpassed all expectations and provided invaluable material through unparalleled experts in varying fields bettering us through an intentional ‘integral human development approach.’ Each day we were given opportunities to not just learn from case studies and statistics, but also to evaluate the need for constructing initiatives that reshape our current culture,” said Nicole Escobar, Executive Director of Trees of Hope.
Shawn Rae, speaker, artist, and humanitarian, who attended the Academy wrote, “Your human trafficking program was excellent – I truly enjoyed and expanded my knowledge after listening to a Who’s Who list of speakers!”
And, for Academy Director, Dr. Roza Pati, who envisioned the Academy since 2003, this summer’s event was “a source of immense fulfillment,” she said, adding that, “I cannot be happier to hear the extraordinary feedback we have received about the Academy. Every year, my team and I promise the participants that upon certification from our Academy they do not question themselves about the knowledge and skills they gain on the focused topic of the Academy. We pride ourselves in being the premier education and training institution on human trafficking. We do not just talk, we perform. We do not just perform, we excel in performance. In our Catholic intellectual tradition, we read the signs of the times as they unfold in our daily lives, and we respond proactively to reach the ultimate societal goal of human flourishing. Thank you and see you next year!”
The full list of course instructors at the 2019 Summer Academy is available here.