- Sponsorship -

Students Bring Concerns from Classroom to Council

Present Research from Study on Human Trafficking

East Lee High School students recently served as a voice for the millions of victims of human trafficking worldwide, including thousands in West Michigan, by making a presentation to the Grandville City Council in support of a proclamation.

Seniors Mitzi Hernandez and Jadon DeBri delivered research prior to the Grandville City Council’s unanimous approval of a declaration proclaiming January “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month.” Justin Noordhoek, the students’ social studies teacher, is a council member.

Mitzi and Jadon’s presentation was the result of a study last school year on the Holocaust, which Noordhoek and English teacher Sarah Byrne use as a launching point into a collaborative unit on Modern Crimes Against Humanity. Students at the alternative high school chose to study human trafficking, blood diamonds, child soldiers, life in North Korea, and genocide in Darfur.

Mitzi said human trafficking is an issue many need to know more about.

“It’s a situation we don’t see and we don’t think it is happening, but it really is,” Mitzi said. “It’s crazy how many boys and girls are impacted by this. I felt like it was important for me to go to the City Council because I feel like there should be more awareness about what’s going on.”

The students presented the facts, based on estimates from Women at Risk International, which has locations in Wyoming and Rockford, including that 2,400 minors are being trafficked in West Michigan at any time. Michigan ranked second in 2015 for most incidents of human trafficking because its international border makes it ideal for traffickers. It remains in the top 10.

People are trafficked for prostitution, forced labor, illegal adoption, forced marriages, drug trafficking and even organ transplants. The average cost of a slave is $90.

Making A Difference

For their Modern Crimes Against Humanity projects, students researched facts and news articles, studied the perspective of individuals affected and created newscasts. Noordhoek and Byrne use project-based learning in their teaching, which involves making community connections and working to help solve problems. Noordhoek said his connection with the council offered a great platform.

“They can directly connect what they are learning in school to the real world,” he said. “They saw that actual process in action of, ‘Wow, this actually went somewhere. Government is recognizing this topic we are studying and I played a role in that.’

“For the City Council,” he added, “I just think it’s really fantastic when you have students, young people, acting as leaders and bringing attention to a topic to people in position of leadership that maybe otherwise no one would be a voice for.”

For Mitzi, she’s gained the confidence to address other issues she feels strongly about.

“We should do more and bring out more awareness of many things,” she said. “We should be united. We have to start small to make something big.

“This is making me a stronger person, showing me I can make a change and encouraging me to do more.”

- Sponsorship -
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.


Fourth-grade hockey fan gets a magical hour on ice: ‘I made the shot!’

Raised as a Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins hockey fan, Jackson Solow lights up while skating on an ice rink wearing his favorite hockey jersey...

‘This time it is continued learning’

One school’s switch from in-person to virtual education last week was nearly seamless, especially when compared with the forced school closure in March...

Foundation grants $28,285 in fall funding requests

Virtual phys ed and art experiences, materials to improve classroom focus and books on social issues aimed at middle-schoolers are among the grants approved this fall...

Latest school closings expand on state-ordered high school mandate

More Kent County districts continue to announce temporary school building closures, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Satellite library aims to boost reading for the fun of it

The Kent District Library location opened this week, and is exclusively for East Lee Campus students and their families...

Voters approve bond request by 2-to-1 margin

The approval of the $17.79 million bond will restore and renovate Lee Middle and High School, which was badly damaged by a June 2019 roof collapse...

District bond request Nov. 3 includes upgrades, additions and community wellness & resource center

Godfrey-Lee Public Schools is asking voters to approve a 30-year, $17.79 million bond proposal to fund major reconstruction, additions and improvements to Lee Middle and High School...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU