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Creating Learning for Impact: Students’ Perspectives on Human Trafficking Activism at School 

Creating Learning for Impact: Students’ Perspectives on Human Trafficking Activism at School 

Posted on: 25 April 2024

Maisie Bruner and Kaixuan Guo, 11th Graders at Atlanta International School


#MyFreedomDay is a day-long event started by CNN in 2017 to raise awareness about modern-day slavery. The impact of #MyFreedomDay on student-led anti-human trafficking activism each year is significant. Every year in March, students from the Atlanta International School’s anti-human trafficking group (AIS Against Human Trafficking) organize creative events during #MyFreedomDay to spread awareness to their school and the community.

This year, on March 14, 2024, the Atlanta International School community came together to join the global campaign. The organized activities included a Film Festival for Secondary School Students, a parent event about “Keeping Kids Safe in the Digital Age” by guest speaker Camila Zolfhagari, and teaching Primary School students about their rights. This #MyFreedomDay was a big success.

We are Maisie Bruner and Kaixuan Guo and we are juniors in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at Atlanta International School as well as the co-leaders of AIS Against Human Trafficking (AISAHT). We started planning #MyFreedomDay back in August, and we were deep into planning throughout the year. From countless meetings within our group, with administrators and with teacher mentors, we were fortunate enough to not only have the opportunity to plan this event but also receive immense support from the outer community.

We were primarily in charge of the Secondary School film festival, and our goal was to debunk myths about human trafficking. The films were created by different groups of Secondary School students. Some myths that were debunked were, “all trafficking victims want help getting out,” “all trafficking victims are girls,” and “traffickers target victims they don’t know.” Later that day and week, we heard people not only talking about the films but also talking about human trafficking in general, thus achieving our goal.

The week of #MyFreedomDay:

The week of #MyFreedomDay was busy and filled with last-minute meetings and excitement around the big day. From cleaning up some final details to receiving tips on public speaking, it was definitely a lot of running around and preparing as best as possible.

We attended the Generation Global seminars the week of MyFreedomDay. It was an interesting experience because we were able to share what we were planning to do on #MyFreedomDay and students from other countries shared what they know about human rights in their country. It was refreshing to talk to peers who were focusing on other aspects of human trafficking and human rights. Sometimes, when a person is too focused on their own school, community, city, or country, they think it is the same everywhere else in the world too. Talking with other students helped us realize that human trafficking and human rights issues are deeply entwined.

Middle School AISAHT students also presented in a Global Conversations webinar with heads of schools that morning for The Association for the Advancement of International Education (AAIE).

On the morning of March 14th, an Atlanta International School Parent event was organized by Megha Nair (Grade 11). This event was about “Keeping Kids Safe in the Digital Age” featuring Camila Zolfhagari from Street Grace, a human trafficking non-profit based in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Impact:

We feel confident that what we planned left an impact.  We heard countless students in the hallways and in classes talking about the films and bringing up human trafficking in classes. In English class a few weeks after #MyFreedomDay, we were watching the film, “Citizen Kane,” and a boy in my [Maisie] class shouted out, “is Charles being trafficked?,” which sparked a class-wide discussion about the issue. This was one example of how we think this year’s event made people more aware and thinking about human trafficking.

This shows that this event was successful and that it wasn’t just AISAHT kids talking at students. It was the films, which were created by students outside of the group, that were showcasing and debunking the myths. It seemed as though this caught the attention of the filmmakers’ friends; they wanted to see what their friends made, and in return, learned at least something about human trafficking. This year, we checked off the community engagement box. We found that receiving help from the community left an impact that we could not make alone.

The community:

Anouk Robianni (Grade 9) stepped up to help with asking for donations. First emailing companies, we went to some stores in person. It was challenging, but it was really rewarding and a great learning experience. Brands like Patagonia, Trader Joe’s, Fair Anita, Beauty Counter, and Noonday Collections all gave us donations and were all supportive of our work, which helped us host a successful event.

Being Interviewed By CNN:

Some participants of the Film Festival were interviewed by CNN International (Lynda Kinkade). The two of us were interviewed too. We discussed the planning process for the Film Festival. It is incredibly nerve-racking to talk in front of a giant camera into a microphone while the whole secondary school listens to what you say. We did a live interview and then took multiple takes for the edited version that will be shown on CNN at a later time.


With the help of Veronica McDaniel (AISAHT Supervisor and Founder of Freest) and  Ken Coe (AISAHT Supervisor and Primary School Teacher), we were able to connect with anti-human trafficking NGOs such as Street Grace. Thanks to Ken Coe, we were able to get mentors to help the participants with their films as well as judges for the Film Festival.

  • We would like to give a special thank you to the following companies and people for their help and collaboration:
  • Street Grace & Camila Zolfaghari
  • Freedom United (Executive Director Joanna Euart-James who came in from the UK, and Rebekah Enoch)
  • CNN International and Leif Coorlim
  • Special thanks to the following companies who donated to offer prizes to our filmmakers: Tony’s Chocolonely, Beautycounter, Patagonia, Trader Joe’s, Fair Anita, Noonday Collections
  • The film industry judges and mentors who helped us achieve the festival.
  • All AISAHT members (Upper and Middle School)
  • Keith Bogle for helping us with the slides

In addition, we reached out to Polaris, and some of the films were posted on Instagram since they also highlighted the National Human Trafficking Hotline 888-373-7888. . After the festival, we also had the privilege of working with Freedom United, and the student films were promoted on their website.


While this year’s event definitely sparked some good conversations around school, it came with challenges. We started planning this event around the beginning of the year, and it took a lot of growth and perseverance to pull off. It felt like we were running around school in meetings with administrators and teacher mentors trying to figure out what we wanted while keeping in mind what would work out logistically. We also had to put a lot of focus on leading the AISAHT, which consists of around 20 students our age. We also wanted to have prizes for our winners, and reaching out to ethically sourced brands for in-kind donations was something that I [Maisie] had never done, and ultimately, terrified of doing.

Maisie’s challenges were mostly with overcoming uncertainties over leading the weekly meetings and setting boundaries within the student group. For example, when to step in and ask phones to be put away and ask for side conversations to stop amongst peers. Maisie also overcame uncertainties about how to get people to participate in the group when they would show up but not do anything. She worked on her confidence as a leader amongst her peers and learned so much from doing so.

Kaixuan felt that throughout the planning process and executing the event itself, the majority of the challenges were regarding logistics. Since February, when the Film Festival was first announced, there were challenges. First, it was getting enough people to sign up.

Since this is the first time we have organized such a large event, there was a lot of chaos the week leading up to the event itself. The day before March 14th was a bit of a mess. We didn’t have a formalized plan with timings and our slide presentation was not completed. It was impressive how calm everyone was amidst the chaos and confusion. Before the event itself, Kaixua felt incredibly nervous having never talked in front of so many people before and even thinking about it “made my heart beat faster and faster.”

We definitely grew throughout this process. Kaixuan said she was starting to feel like a grown-up. “After the event, I went to thank the mentors for taking the time out of their day to be judges for our event. I had been communicating with the mentors via email and updating them about the timings and logistics of the event. After the event, one of the film judges told me that they thought I was an adult based on the organization of my emails and how formal they were. I experienced a weird feeling. I felt like I was becoming more and more like an adult.”


Overall, #MyFreedomDay turned out to be a huge learning experience and success. From meetings with administrators and teacher mentors to meetings with AISAHT students to thinking about how to reach out to members outside our community, this year has been challenging but it has been so rewarding. Seeing how #MyFreedomDay engaged our community created a sense of pride, and we can confidently say that through much reflection, we are proud of how the day of action turned out and how the community stepped up to face an uncomfortable issue. How our community stepped up in this day of action was really inspiring. It was great hearing from teachers, how meaningful the learning was throughout the day, and how they want to get more and more involved.

We are honored to have been able to play our role in creating a day full of awareness raising and hope that our community will continue to commit to keeping us safe and giving us the opportunity to use our voices, share our ideas, and plan something that we design and execute. Thank you to our teachers who support us and make us feel proud by saying “You two really crushed it during #MyFreedomDay.  It felt so professional, meaningful, and inspiring! It made a difference. I am lucky to watch you choose your path.
Jason Simons, Learning Support Teacher and Head of Grade 7.

We hope we can be a resource to other schools and offer any advice we can now that we have chosen our own path successfully in anti-human trafficking at our school.

Maisie Bruner is a junior at Atlanta International School where she has attended since she was in pre-Kindergarten. She is a native of Atlanta and is bilingual, and speaks Spanish and English. Maisie is a competitive soccer player, loves working at her Summer camp, loves dogs, and currently works at a Doggy Day Care. She hopes to study Political Science in college. She can be reached at

Kaixuan Guo is a junior at Atlanta International School where she has attended since 7th grade. She is fluent in Chinese and English and is currently learning French at school. She enjoys playing tennis, reading, spending time with friends and family, and surrounding herself in nature. Her future aspirations include pursuing a major in Anthropology in college. She can be reached at

Please contact AISAHT teacher supervisor and CNN’s #MyFreedomDay teacher coordinator Veronica McDaniel with any questions