TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — For more than 40 years, Tampa native Connie Rose said she thought was a prostitute, not a victim of human trafficking.
“I grew up in an upper middle-class Christian household,” Rose recalled. “Why should it have happened to me? Look at me. Why? But it did. And it can happen to anyone.”
Now that she said she understands what happened to her decades ago, Rose wants to prevent it from happening to anyone else.
“So even though folks had an idea, they thought something was wrong, that in their gut they knew something was wrong,” Rose said. “No one had the tools or the information like we’re going to provide today.”
On Wednesday, Hillsborough County Public Schools and the Latino Coalition of Tampa Bay teamed up to present community leaders with resources and knowledge about human trafficking in their backyard.
“We have so many immigrants coming into our country on a daily basis, that we want to make sure that they’re advised and that they know the protocols and what to look for,” Drucie Diaz said.
Diaz is HCPS’s District Program Advisor for Career, Technical, and Adult Education.
“It’s important because it affects our children,” Diaz said. “It’s their well-being.”
The goal is to get the important information out to as many community members as possible, to keep both kids and adults safe online and offline.
“It’s very important that we talk about human trafficking,” said Monica Rodriguez, chair of the Latino Coalition of Tampa Bay. “Because we are one of the largest cities affected by this problem.”
According to Paving the Way Foundation, Florida is third in the nation for calls to the Human Trafficking Hotline and Hillsborough County ranks third in the state for child trafficking.
“It was just amazing to me, the vulnerability of our students,” Lynn Gray said.
Gray is an HCPS board member, and said she started the first human trafficking committee for the board in 2020.
“When I look at my students, the first thing we always want is the safety,” Gray said.