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Student honored for work with exploited children

Charisma De Los Reyes, a Master of Social Work student at the San Diego Academic Center, has received the San Diego County Juvenile Justice Commission Award in child welfare services for her work on behalf of commercially sexually exploited children in the San Diego area.

The commission annually recognizes individuals for their commitment to public service involving youth, families or children in the juvenile justice system.

De Los Reyes, a community organization, planning and administration major at the USC School of Social Work, has collaborated with local law enforcement, education and community agencies to develop training that raises awareness about commercially sexually exploited children. She also wants to begin an advocacy campaign to protect these victims in San Diego County.

Toward that end, she participated in a session at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools national conference about the Grossmont Union High School District’s Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative to curb human trafficking on school campuses. De Los Reyes represented Mariposa Center for Change, an advocacy organization she helped establish to protect women and children of color in Southern California.

“I hope to gain credibility, visibility and access to different agencies where we can begin to address and improve programming surrounding the needs of commercially sexually exploited children,” she said. “I want to further advocate for the needs and services of these victims by supporting legislation that will protect exploited children.”

De Los Reyes currently is working on a campaign to gain support for the Safe Harbor Act for Exploited Children, which will recognize that young people who have been subjected to commercial sexual exploitation, such as acts of prostitution, are victims and not perpetrators of the crimes.

The act also would shift the jurisdiction for these situations from juvenile delinquency to child welfare, where young people can receive safe and appropriate trauma-informed services, she said.

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Student honored for work with exploited children

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