Kent State Stark holds Anti-Human Trafficking Symposium
Honors Program students organize event as a way to educate the public on the growing concern of human trafficking.
Tatyana Ragon has witnessed firsthand the good that can come from a bad situation. Once she felt broken. A victim of sexual abuse, she fought to rise above. To be more than a statistic. More than a circumstance.
Ragon is not the first to call herself an overcomer, but she’s earned the title. A day doesn’t pass when she doesn’t take the pain and let it propel her to benefit those around her. One day, she’ll be a nurse and she will help women in situations like the one she found herself in.
Today, she fights for those without a voice.
As an organizer of Kent State University at Stark’s Anti-Human Trafficking Symposium, Ragon worked to develop a two-day event that would educate the public on human trafficking, a widespread issue in Northeast Ohio. Held Sept. 21 – 22, the second annual symposium drew 125 attendees.
“I discovered a passion for learning about the tragic world of human trafficking and pushing for awareness in our community,” Ragon said. “It happens in our own backyard, right here in Canton, Ohio. If people are just made aware of that fact, I think they would be more likely to see things a little differently. Something may raise a red flag and a life could be saved.”
Fueling a sense of purpose in students united by a single cause is what Leslie Heaphy, Ph.D., associate professor of history and Kent State Stark Honors Program coordinator, seeks to ignite. The Anti-Human Trafficking Symposium has become an annual honors project that is organized by students and delivers meaningful content to the community through presentations, panel discussions and short films.
Freshman marketing student, Megyn Bostic, produced one such film. “The Naivete of a Young Girl” depicts types of human trafficking, including forced labor and marriages.
Bostic worked with Ragon and senior public health student Michaela Morris to coordinate with presenting organizations and sponsors, including Akron General Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic, Partners Against Trafficking Humans Stark, and the Domestic Violence Project, Inc., among others.
“Human trafficking is something we need to draw more attention to,” said Morris. “People in America, especially people in our area in Northeast Ohio, don’t think that this is something that’s happening here. They think it only exists in other parts of the world.”
During the September symposium, Jan Apisa, director of community engagement for the Victim Assistance Program of Summit County, discussed results from a study that describes the depth of human trafficking – a $150 billion industry.
Courage to Hope
For Ragon, that statistic is startling. Still, she is shocked more by the fact that people do not take a stand to end human trafficking.
The 21-year-old dreams of being an advocate while she juggles nursing classes at the Kent Campus and working at Canton’s Aultman Hospital as an emergency-room technician. Her career goal is this: to become a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) and help victims in the ER.
“I think the biggest thing is to give them hope,” said Ragon. “I went through a very dark time in my life, but there is light. There is something better. It is not always going to be like this. I just want them to know that.
“One day, you will begin to feel like a normal person again, but it can be a lifelong journey. It begins with the courage to hope for that one day.”
Ragon is thankful her “one day” is today.
Pictured in photo: Students (from left to right) Cameron Haught, Anna Grund, Michaela Morris, Tatyana Ragon and Megyn Bostic at the Anti-Human Trafficking Symposium held this fall at Kent State University at Stark.
Want to make a difference by getting involved? Contact Dr. Leslie Heaphy at lheaphy [at] kent.edu or Tatyana Ragon at tragon [at] kent.edu to help with Kent State Stark’s next Anti-Human Trafficking Symposium.