Human trafficking prevention education

How to empower students throughout the school year

Submitted by the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking 

“Human trafficking comes in many forms, happens everywhere and discriminates against no one.” This is the message Gina Cavallo, the Survivor Consultant for the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking (NJCAHT), shares with middle and high school students and others throughout the state. She is one of many lived experience experts who work with the NJCAHT, and her presentations make the basic understanding of human trafficking come to life.  

“It’s essential that any audience, be they students, teachers, parents or other community members, receive our HT 101 presentation before I share with any group,” Cavallo says. “With that combination of presentations, the reality of the exploitation and abuse of human trafficking happening in our communities becomes real but also actionable.”  

The presentations not only share valuable information about what human trafficking is, and how to recognize it, but also tools for prevention. Receiving the dual presentations is something schools should consider throughout the school year, not just during January’s Human Trafficking Prevention Month. 

National Human Trafficking Prevention Month was established by then President Barack Obama in 2010, and it was designated as Human Trafficking Prevention Month in New Jersey in 2013. The month includes Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Jan. 11.  

New Jersey is especially vulnerable to human trafficking 

Many people are surprised to discover that human trafficking exists in the U.S., and that it affects all people, both citizens and noncitizens. New Jersey is especially vulnerable to human trafficking due to its population density, its proximity to two major cities, and its extensive network of interstate highways and transportation systems. Add to that the fact that New Jersey attracts large crowds during concerts and sporting events and is a tourist destination bringing transient populations, it has all the components that create demand and make it easy for trafficking to occur.  

What is NJCAHT? 

The NJCAHT is a volunteer-based, survivor inclusive 501(c)(3) organization that coordinates statewide community efforts to end sex and labor trafficking in New Jersey. Now in its 13th year, it comprises 150 volunteers and represents over 200 affiliates—including nonprofits, faith-based organizations, academics, law enforcement and direct service providers. The NJCAHT’s mission is to unite New Jersey communities to end human trafficking. It works to empower communities with the knowledge of what human trafficking is, how to prevent it, and how to support those affected by it. Its tagline is, “Let’s create a safer state.” NJCAHT’s website is  

The NJCAHT empowers college students, who undertake a Winter Internship Program with the organization, to publicly present their own event on Jan. 11. The objective of the winter internship program is to develop future leaders and social justice advocates. Interns are educated on the crime of human trafficking, meet with survivor consultants to learn about their lived experience, are taught to recognize the signs to prevent trafficking and more. Using the information they learn and additional research, interns put together a live-streamed event on Human Trafficking Awareness Day. 

Lesson plans and instructional materials 

Whether it’s January or another month during the school year, teachers can access the NJCAHT’s free lesson plans on and download videos and interactive teaching tools that meet the New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Health and Physical Education. The videos are short interviews of subject matter experts with New Jersey students, and cover recruitment strategies, online grooming, safety and legislation.  

Involving students and putting lessons into action is the key to empowerment and prevention, so this is what the NJCAHT encourages. Teachers can also access information on how to inspire students to be leaders in the anti-trafficking movement, with tools such as the online guide to Locker Slam and other ideas for in-school action, which can be found here at  

Dr. Danny Papa, the NJCAHT President, co-chairs the NJCAHT Education Committee and is an elementary school principal in Morris County. He is passionate about giving students the tools to be leaders and knowledgeable citizens.  

“We empower students through our prevention education presentations,” Dr. Papa says.  

Dr. Papa has experienced the powerful effect of giving students the freedom to become leaders in the anti-trafficking movement. As a middle school history teacher more than a decade ago, he gave his students the time and encouragement to create their own program: Project Stay Gold.  

“Seeing those students now having graduated college and who are still incorporating everything they learned about human trafficking into their work lives, whether they work in finance, health care or other parts of the community, is inspiring and demonstrates that when students put education into action it changes their lives,” Dr. Papa says.    

Speakers bureau 

The best way for schools to get started with student engagement and empowerment is with the dual presentation from the NJCAHT’s Speakers Bureau. It coordinates with its team of volunteer speakers to respond to all requests, but schools’ presentations are always prioritized due to the importance of reaching youth.  

Because of the exploitation those with lived experience of human trafficking have faced, survivors need to receive an honorarium for sharing their expertise. But recognizing that not all schools have the funds to cover this, the NJCAHT offers grants to schools so that they can receive this important presentation to bring enhanced prevention education to their students.  

 Information about requesting speakers and the grants to cover any costs can be found at The NJCAHT Outreach Committee is available for awareness activities, such as setting up information tables at Back to School Nights, health fairs, community events and so forth. The form can be found on the same “Request a Speaker” page.  

Volunteer opportunities 

The NJCAHT welcomes volunteers to join the organization and is fortunate to have many current and retired professionals donate their time to ensure awareness is reaching every part of the state. It has an Education Committee, comprising teachers, former teachers and students, as well as committees for Health Care, Legislation, Bank Awareness and Outreach.  

Applicants are asked to abide by the NJCAHT’s values captured in its Anti-Oppression Statement and take a self-paced free introductory training online offered by Polaris Project at Anyone interested in applying can do so at  

Working in coalition for recognition and prevention 

The NJCAHT works with key professional groups, including health care providers, first responders and hospitality staff, to ensure they have protocols in place to recognize and prevent human trafficking and to safely identify and treat those who’ve suffered from it. Through outreach to hotels and motels in the state, the NJCAHT has now reached over 900 hotels and motels across 14 New Jersey counties, providing critical resources in multiple languages to help prevent trafficking in their establishments.  

The NJCAHT also advocates for statewide legislation that protects survivors, identifies victims and reduces demand for future victims. Over its 12-year history it has successfully advocated for many important policy improvements such as:  

  • The 2013 New Jersey Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act.  
  • A 2019 law to create Guidelines to Prevent Human Trafficking in New Jersey Schools, which can be found at  
  • A 2021 law to promote knowledge of the Human Trafficking Hotline (888-373-7888) and Text Line 233733 (BE FREE). Text the words “HELP” or “INFO” to that number.
  • A 2022 law that expanded provisions for survivors to seek record clearing of offenses that were the result of being trafficked. 

Videos at 

Watch our public service announcements on sex trafficking and labor trafficking, and view our recorded in-depth version of the HT 101 with Cristian Eduardo and Wincey Terry-Bryant at  

What if I suspect human trafficking?

If you are out in public spaces and see something that you think might mean someone is being trafficked, do not intervene. Keep yourself and the victim safe by calling the human trafficking hotline at 888-373-7888 or texting “HELP” or “INFO” to BE FREE (233733).  

Lesson plans to counter recruitment strategies used by human traffickers 

Human trafficking can happen to anyone, but young people are often targeted by those wishing to manipulate and exploit them. The New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking’s Education Committee has developed Google Classroom style lesson plans that meet the New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Health and Physical Education, grades 6-12. The lesson plans are free and easy to download and there are also lessons on online safety and legislation. Find the lesson plans at and find more ideas and resources for schools at