youthSpark Ignites Change

A wonderful and enlightening thing happened to me today—I walked into the Juvenile Justice Department Building on Pryor Street and into the office of youthSpark. As a journalist for well over 20 years, the stories of child trafficking were all too familiar. But, what became novel for me today, was seeing the people behind the youthSpark doors feverishly working to ignite change—a handful with a mountain of purpose.

Let’s backtrack for a moment. You know, the stories are oh so familiar. Through the years, the various police agencies have harped on how Atlanta is a pretty popular hub for human traffickers, the street “pimps” who prey on our young girls. We’ve known for a minute that the majority of those girls are runaways or homeless. The newsroom would often get those press release crunching the numbers of how many of those girls were pulled from the street, arrested and sent back home only for that dreaded cycle to start all over again.

Fast forward until today and why the youthSpark office is so refreshing. I’m working on my capstone project for grad school and I’m exploring various methods to restore the lives of those abused on the street. The research has been pretty daunting, that is until today. Wow, what I learned in a few short minutes…

youthSpark, is not only on a mission to rescue and restore those young victims, but to actively send a message to those create the demand in the first place; the buyer—that man out and about prowling the streets looking for a quick thrill. Law enforcement agencies just don’t have the resources, but now efforts are underway to make sure that “the man” or “the buyer” knows someone, or at least, youthSpark is watching..watching…watching and taking notes.

I like to think of their work as the latest installment in a series called “Scared Straight” It’s not very glamorous work, but it sure is important. You think?