Thursday, August 23, 2012

Florida Teen Earns Girl Scout Gold Award Fighting Human Trafficking

Florida Girl Scout Julia Joy McBee knows the thrills of swimming, the virtues of Scouting and the beauty of singing. Her passion, however, lies in crushing human trafficking.

The Palm Beach Post reports that the Jupiter resident has made the fight against human trafficking her cause. It became the topic of her Girl Scout Gold Award project, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting, which she earned in May.

She also helped the effort to pass a bill through the Florida Legislature imposing tougher penalties on those convicted of human trafficking —and was present when Govorner Rick Scott signed the bill into law June 12.

McBee learned of the issue through a family friend, Aimee Cernicharo Cabral, a human-rights attorney for St. Thomas University in Miami. Cabral told McBee how immigrants were being smuggled in and out of the country, deceived and forced to work as prostitutes, some in chains.

“I was shocked,” McBee said. “As I discussed this with my friends at school, it became clear they didn’t know what was going on right in our backyard less than a mile from our school.”

McBee felt compelled to help the victims. Her Girl Scout Gold Award project required “countless hours researching, networking, presenting and advocating to create awareness of the harsh reality of human trafficking,” some of it to state lawmakers as she worked with Representative William Snyder, R-Stuart, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, build support for the bill among state lawmakers.

McBee also became involved with and serves on the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, a international organization dealing with the issue of human trafficking, and serves on its student board of advisers.