Texas! Save Our Youth

Kathy Ylostalo, on right, a trainer in human trafficking prevention, gave a presentation on signs community members should be aware of to help identify human, labor and sex trafficking victims at an event held by Texas! Save Our Youth on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, at the Killeen Community Center.

With January being National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the organization known as Texas! Save Our Youth will be holding not one, but two events this month.

Both events will be held at the Killeen Community Center, 2201 E. Veterans Memorial Blvd., and both are free and open to the public.

First, a mock funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. Jan. 19, and will be held in the Community Room of the Community Center.

“We’re having a funeral where we’ll bury sex trafficking,” said Killeen City Councilwoman Shirley Fleming, an organizer for the event.

Actors and key city officials will be participating in the event, to include Fleming; AnaLuisa Carrillo-Tapia, LULAC deputy director for District 17; Phyllis Jones, state education chair of the Texas State NAACP; Nicola James, president of the Texas Democratic Women; and Barbara Garrett, past president of the Texas Democratic Women.

“This is a different way to educate the community, through role-playing,” Fleming said. “We’re trying to show in different ways how trafficking occurs from beginning to end.”

The event will be followed by a meet and greet and “funeral repast.”

The organization will also be holding a trafficking forum 6 to 8 p.m. on Jan. 24.

Guest speakers at this event will include Blanca Ortiz, family violence unity case manager from Aware Central Texas; and Rena Schroeder.

“Rena lost two daughters to trafficking, and she’s coming to tell her story,” Fleming said.

These trafficking forums began in April of last year, with a group of concerned residents, including Fleming, who wanted to bring awareness of the problem to the community. In May, the group became officially known as Texas! Save Our Youth, and have been holding the public meetings ever since.

“We started them because there is so much violence and trafficking here just in our area,” said Fleming. But, she said, “We all have children, we all have families…I don’t want it to happen to them. What other reason do you do it? You’re concerned for your children.”

Now, she said, “It (trafficking) is happening all over Central Texas, not just in our community. ... The public is invited and we hope everyone attends, because it’s vitally important that we educate and get the word out.”

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