Sheridan Moore, an 18-year-old Girl Scout from Snohomish County, is an incredible example of the power youth can have in their community. Using perseverance and unparalleled grit to fight an overlooked and unnoticed global issue, Sheridan highlights the root cause of labor trafficking and has found a way to educate the community and foster sustainable change.
Known for her community service, Sheridan received the Bronze Award in the 6th grade for her contributions to helping an animal shelter. Later, Sheridan received the Silver Award in the 8th grade by working with the Edmonds School District– more specifically the Nourishing Network program– to help stabilize a basic necessity for homeless kids to receive food on the weekends. At a young age, Sheridan was motivated by how it felt to “do good” and continued to look for ways to lift up her community.
When it was time to work towards the Girl Scouts’ most prestigious award, the Gold Award, Sheridan decided to focus on the issue of labor trafficking. In her exploration of domestic human trafficking, she became aware of the important role isolation played in labor trafficking, i.e. a single domestic worker in a home with no outside contacts. Being isolated (and somewhat invisible) made it difficult for others to identify the signs of domestic labor trafficking compared to sex trafficking. With her extensive and vastly comprehensive research and reading on domestic human trafficking, Sheridan made it her mission to inform her community.
Despite a late start during her Senior year of high school, Sheridan left behind a complete and concentrated tool kit for her community that others will continue to use. Sheridan focused her efforts on collaborating with other non-profits who shared her passion, including Seattle Against Slavery. Sheridan sought out Claudia Lawrence, Community Mobilization Director for Seattle Against Slavery, as her advisor and worked very closely with Claudia to create educational materials and presentations for the community. Sheridan attributes much of her focus and success to Claudia’s support and guidance.
It took roughly one month for Sheridan to put together her twenty six slide Power Point about labor trafficking, rich with staggering statistics gathered from Polaris, individually made graphs, short videos, a breakdown of what labor trafficking is, and ways you can help. Once finalized it was up to Sheridan to reach out to her community. She sent countless emails to local schools and libraries offering to speak with both teens and adults. Sheridan was able to deliver these presentations to people of all ages with composure and compassion. Sheridan gave presentations at two local libraries, four high schools, and a Girl Scout troop leaders meeting. It wasn’t long before her impressive understanding and passion for this issue that it spread to the audience and Sheridan could see her hard work paid off with feedback through a survey at each of her presentations.
“I would list questions like ‘do you feel confident you know the difference between sex and labor trafficking’ or ‘are you aware of labor trafficking’, and most people in the beginning would rate 0-2 on a 5 grade scale and by the end of the presentation they would rate a 4 or 5 and want to get involved with the anti-trafficking movement.”
Sheridan has seen a significant change in the level of awareness because of her educational presentation. She starts by explaining the legal definition of human trafficking which states that one who has been human trafficked has gone through one or more of the following: Force (physical confinement, monitoring), fraud (false promising, like payment) and/or coercion (document confiscation, threats to them or family, etc.). She then goes into astonishing statistics including that out of the 40 million human trafficking victims, 24.9 are trapped in situations of forced labor.
“But you can’t leave people with this depressing data, so that’s where I bring up the slides about what they can do.”
Sheridan’s ability to compel people of all ages demonstrates why youth and their voices should be amplified and why they should be part of this “adult” conversation. What some may see as too intense to discuss with kids is only sheltering them from exploring a passion they may have or excluding them from an issue they might be able to add value to. Rather than suppress ugly issues from young people because of perceived lack of knowledge, we should praise their interest in learning and willingness to chart a path that they will continue to pave as they become adults.
If you would like to get more involved in the issue, Sheridan suggests you start with research, the means by which she created this extraordinary presentation. She encourages others to learn more about brands that fail to participate in fair trade. She also recommends a book “The Slave Next Door” by Kevin Bales and the movie “The Dark Side of Chocolate.” Stories like this hit home and make labor trafficking relevant to all of us as consumers.
If you are a young person wanting to get involved in this issue, you can apply to be part of our Youth Leadership Board here and get your school to host Sheridan’s presentation through her website, lltap.org.