Freedom Awards

Meet The Recipients Of This Year's Freedom Awards - Kelly Fang and Ria Gaur

Held by ECPAT-USA, the Freedom Awards bring together a highly selective group of 200 luminaries in the corporate, philanthropic, government, and media communities in support of ECPAT-USA’s vital work to ensure no child is bought or sold. The highlight of the evening is the recognition of the world’s most remarkable individuals for their contributions in ending child trafficking.

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Kelly Fang

Brooklyn Tech High School

Next Gen Award

It was a Facebook post from the previous secretary of the Youth Against Child Trafficking program at her high school that Kelly Fang first realized that sex trafficking was an issue not only in other countries, but in her community as well. Then a freshman at Brooklyn Tech, Kelly decided to sit in on a few meetings of the club to learn more about the issue. After those first few meetings, Kelly became a dedicated member of the group and help host fundraisers throughout the year, hold assemblies, screened documentaries and hold card making sessions to empower survivors of trafficking.

Now the president of the Brooklyn Tech Y-ACT group, Kelly says she’s learned a lot about the exploitation, the causes, the legislation and the hardships from many points of views. She sees how larger issues such as gender equality and consumerism help perpetuate the cycle of exploitation and says she has become more conscious of how her everyday decisions affect others.  

“I hope that my peers understand that they have the power to make change happen and that it is not too early to start caring,” Kelly said. “Just showing up to club meetings on Monday, really means a lot to the cause, even if it may feel like not much is being done. Listening to stories and uncovering the complexities of the problem is important. Awareness is a crucial foundation for action. We have the power to decide the future and we have the means to do so now.”

Kelly hopes that the work of the Y-ACT group at Brooklyn Tech encourages other students to get involved with issues like trafficking that impact their community so directly.

“Working on such a heavy issue has definitely amplified my voice in my school community and encouraged me to develop my courage,” Kelly said. “I've realized my ability to make change, and understand that my actions leave an impression on those around me. For years, I've looked up to leaders who have inspired others but now I want to be that person who can move others to take action.”

Ria Gaur

Stuyvesant High School

Next Gen Award

When Stuyvesant High School student Ria Gaur first learned about trafficking through a documentary about the issue in India, she figured that if she was interested in this issue, there were probably other students at her school who would want to work with her in raising awareness about trafficking. After researching more about the issue and looking into volunteering with anti-trafficking non-profits, Ria started Stuyvesant Against Trafficking at her school at the end of her sophomore year.

For the past two years, the group has worked to raise money for trafficking survivors through Purpose Jewelry, put up posters at their school, and organized guest speakers from organizations who work on trafficking, including ECPAT-USA, to address their school. When the group wanted to expand their efforts beyond their own high school, they created Silent No Longer ( where they invited students from other schools to join their efforts to fight trafficking and post monthly blog posts about the issue.

Keeping the club up and running and organizing awareness events at her school have not been without their difficulties. But, even in the beginning, when only four or five people of the 3500 people at her school would show up to Stuyvesant Against Trafficking meetings, Ria said she didn’t doubt the group’s ability to make a difference.

“Just cause we’re students doesn’t mean we have less of a say or less of an impact on the issue,” she said. “I think it is really important for youth to be united against an issue like this. It affects our community. I think it’s really important for us to acknowledge it.”

Although Ria will graduate this year from Stuyvesant and start at NYU in the fall, she plans to continue raising awareness of trafficking and other social justice issues in whatever way she can.

“Because it’s not happening right in front of us, trafficking can be considered a myth,” Ria said. “But I think it’s important to have an open mind and be ready to learn about these types of things and the things that other people endure - not just in other countries but your own country as well - and be willing to help in whatever way you see fit.”

Meet The Recipients Of This Year's Freedom Awards - Jett Jeffery and Glenn Logan

Held by ECPAT-USA, the Freedom Awards bring together a highly selective group of 200 luminaries in the corporate, philanthropic, government, and media communities in support of ECPAT-USA’s vital work to ensure no child is bought or sold. The highlight of the evening is the recognition of the world’s most remarkable individuals for their contributions in ending child trafficking.


Jett Jeffery and Glenn Logan

Delta Flight Products

Rescue Award

Delta employees Jett Jeffery and Glen Logan were sitting in an Orlando-area McDonald’s on a Saturday afternoon in August enjoying their lunch when two girls walked in the restaurant who looked completely out of place.

Around 15 or 16 years old, the girls were dressed inappropriately for the area. The man with them looked much older, and the girls were timid around him. When he finished eating his lunch, he stepped outside, and the girls started chatting with each other. When he returned, they stopped talking immediately.

“It just didn’t fit,” Logan says of the experience in a Delta awareness campaign video.

When the man started snapping his fingers at the girls and urging them to get ready to go quickly, Jeffery and Logan looked at each other and Logan remembers them asking each other at the same time, “Are we seeing what we’re seeing?”

The two decided they couldn’t just walk away from what they had just seen. Jeffery went outside to get the plates, make, and model of the car, and reported the incident to local law enforcement. Later that day, they received a call back from the sheriff's department that the vehicle had come back as stolen.  

The two credit the anti-trafficking training they received from Delta as the reason either of them had noticed anything unusual about the situation at all. Jeffery said, to him, what he was seeing at that McDonald’s lined up almost exactly with the indicators of potential instances of trafficking that he had been taught to look for training.

“It is vital for Delta to take a leadership role in combating human trafficking,” Jeffery said. “By working together and educating employees and customers, we can shed light on the epidemic. Every company can make a statement to traffickers that their actions will not be tolerated.

Both Jeffery and Logan hope that their experience is one that causes those who hear it to think about their role in ending trafficking and take that extra minute to be aware of their surroundings.

“Trafficking can take place anywhere, at any time,” Jeffery said. “If you think you are witnessing human trafficking, please report it! It is better to report the incident than let it go and know you could have saved someone’s life.”

Meet The Recipients Of This Year's Freedom Awards - Anthony Spagnuolo

Held by ECPAT-USA, the Freedom Awards bring together a highly selective group of 200 luminaries in the corporate, philanthropic, government, and media communities in support of ECPAT-USA’s vital work to ensure no child is bought or sold. The highlight of the evening is the recognition of the world’s most remarkable individuals for their contributions in ending child trafficking.


Anthony Spagnuolo

Hilton Area Director of Safety and Security

Defender Award

As the Hilton Area Director of Safety and Security, Anthony Spagnuolo oversees more than 20 different hotel properties across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. He and his team of 38 safety and security professionals are charged with keeping thousands of guests and associates safe every single day, and Spagnuolo has organized countless trainings for staff on security issues - including how to identify and best respond to instances of suspected trafficking.

Spagnuolo first became aware of human trafficking as an issue that could affect guests and team members during a special training session held in anticipation of New Jersey and New York hosting the Super Bowl in 2014. That program, he said, really opened his eyes to the topic, and he is proud of how Hilton embraced the issue and has worked to fight trafficking across all its properties.

Since then, Spagnuolo has ensured that anti-trafficking information has been incorporated into team member trainings and tailored each training to the specific department, so that each associate is receiving the most relevant information about how to identify instances of trafficking for his or her department. Additionally, when New York, Connecticut and New Jersey issued new regulations for postings and trainings at hotels, Spagnuolo spearheaded Hilton’s compliance efforts and led trainings at five properties and organized trainings at 15 more. Spagnuolo’s efforts mean that signage about human trafficking now appears in all of the Hilton properties that he oversees.

Spagnuolo said he has seen team members acting on the knowledge they gained during these trainings to keep guests and fellow associates safe through recognizing a situation as suspicious and reporting it to it to him or one of his team members.

“We really need to rely on all our team members to be our eyes and ears,” he said.

Whether the reports result in police action or a definitive conclusion that an incident was a case of trafficking, Spagnuolo says are the wrong things on which to focus. To him, an individual being aware enough to make the initial report is an accomplishment.

“People coming up to you and reporting situations, those are our success stories,” Spagnuolo said. “We may not find out exactly what happened, but we did our part.”

Meet The Recipients Of This Year's Freedom Awards - Arne M. Sorenson

Held by ECPAT-USA, the Freedom Awards bring together a highly selective group of 200 luminaries in the corporate, philanthropic, government, and media communities in support of ECPAT-USA’s vital work to ensure no child is bought or sold. The highlight of the evening is the recognition of the world’s most remarkable individuals for their contributions in ending child trafficking.

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Arne M. Sorenson

President and CEO, Marriott International

Visionary Award

“We are immensely proud to support ECPAT-USA and to take a stand against human trafficking and child sexual exploitation. Trained on the signs of human trafficking and empowered to say something if they see something, Marriott associates are passionate about making a difference in this fight. Child sexual exploitation is a horrifying daily tragedy that no one can afford to ignore — and the hospitality and tourism industry has a unique opportunity to do something about it.”

Arne M. Sorenson is President and Chief Executive Officer of Marriott International, Inc. Mr. Sorenson presides over one of the world’s largest hospitality companies and some of the most iconic brands in travel.

Mr. Sorenson led the acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide in 2016, resulting in a dramatic expansion of Marriott’s ability to provide unparalleled guest experiences around the world. The company now has more than 7,000 properties across 130 countries and territories and 30 brands. The merger also created the travel industry’s largest customer-loyalty program, with nearly 125 million members. An outspoken corporate leader, he has advocated for environmental sustainability, a more open, safe and inclusive workplace, a welcoming culture around the world and a future in which international travel is revolutionized with a global digital identification system.

Mr. Sorenson joined Marriott in 1996 and held a number of positions before serving as President and Chief Operating Officer. He was elected to Marriott’s Board of Directors in 2011. He became Chief Executive Officer in 2012, making history as the first person to hold the post without the Marriott family name.

With a keen interest in international trade, immigration and innovation, Mr. Sorenson is active on multiple boards. He joined the Microsoft board of directors in November 2017. He is also a member of the Business Roundtable. He serves on the board of trustees for The Brookings Institution, the board of directors for Warrior-Scholar Project and as a member of the Luther College Board of Regents.

Mr. Sorenson is a graduate of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and the University of Minnesota Law School. Before joining Marriott, he was a partner with the law firm Latham & Watkins in Washington, D.C.

Meet The Recipients Of This Year's Freedom Awards - Carol Smolenski

Held by ECPAT-USA, the Freedom Awards bring together a highly selective group of 200 luminaries in the corporate, philanthropic, government, and media communities in support of ECPAT-USA’s vital work to ensure no child is bought or sold. The highlight of the evening is the recognition of the world’s most remarkable individuals for their contributions in ending child trafficking.


Carol Smolenski

Retiring Executive Director of ECPAT-USA

Freedom Award

For over 25 years, Carol Smolenski has served as the executive director of ECPAT-USA. Under her leadership, the organization has grown from the ground up and has become the top policy organization in the United States seeking to end the commercial, sexual exploitation of children.

In the early 1990s, Smolenski was working in the field of child rights when she was invited to attend a presentation about the sexual exploitation of kids in Asia. Activists there had identified large numbers of children being bought and sold for sex in Asia - often by individuals from other countries. The presentation was targeted specifically at those countries from which the demand for the sex trade was originating, and it was there that Smolenski first saw how children were being marketed for exploitation. She left the presentation knowing that she had to do something.

A small team of people started developing the organization that would become ECPAT-USA. They raised money and hired their first staff member and little by little, started growing the organization. The first step for ECPAT-USA was overcoming the lack of awareness around the issue, including the lack of understanding that sex trafficking isn’t an issue that affects only kids in foreign countries. Initially, no one wanted to talk about child trafficking, especially those in the systems and industries that were unknowingly facilitating exploitation.

“We kept going despite how difficult it was in the 1990s,” Smolenski said. “No one was was talking about sex trafficking, but once you heard about it, you couldn’t just walk away. At least, I couldn’t just walk away.”

Eventually, public perception of the issue started to shift. Through the work of ECPAT-USA and other activists, legislators, law enforcement and the general public started to understand that kids who were arrested as participants in the sex trade should be seen as victims instead of perpetrators. In 2004, Carlson signed the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, and the travel and tourism industry began to come on board as allies in the fight to end trafficking. Programs were developed to empower students to become advocates against exploitation in their communities.

“I do want people to understand that if you keep at it, it gets better,” Smolenski says. “Because I do have this long perspective and I have seen a tremendous amount of change, it gives me faith. It gives me confidence to tell people that if you keep working at it, things will improve.”

After working on the issue since 1991, Smolenski will retire later this year. After a lifetime working for child rights organizations, she expects that she will continue in some capacity, but she also hopes to travel and spend time with her friends and family.

Meet This Year's Freedom Awards Recipients

On November 9, 2017, ECPAT-USA held its first ever Freedom Awards celebration to honor leaders in the fight to end child trafficking. This year's honorees include New York City Police Commissioner, James P. O'Neill; CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation, Monique Villa; and Youth Against Child Trafficking co-presidents, Rumana Khan and Julia Zeng. Each of this year's honorees have taken extraordinary action to end child trafficking, whether through protecting children on the street, spotlighting the issue in the media, or educating young people on the signs of trafficking.


James P. O'Neill

New York City Police Commissioner

Defender Award



James P. O’Neill was appointed the 43rd police commissioner of the City of New York by Mayor Bill de Blasio in September 2016. Commissioner O’Neill has been instrumental in developing the Neighborhood Policing philosophy, which is renewing and recasting the NYPD’s patrol function to provide greater police and community interaction and collaboration. When ECPAT-USA co-created the New York City Community Response to Trafficking Project in 2003,Commissioner O’Neill’s support was instrumental in ensuring a culture of cooperation among the diverse members, including service providers, community groups, the FBI, ICE, US Attorney’s offices, District Attorney’s offices, and the NYPD.

In 2017, Commissioner O’Neill launched a bold new initiative aimed at addressing human trafficking. This included adopting the new, more-effective Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI) training program, which has been administered to police recruits, school safety agents, principals and hospital staff, and added to the promotional classes for sergeant and lieutenant. His initiative also included the addition of 25 detectives to the Vice Enforcement Division, specifically to investigate trafficking, the placement of crime victims assistance officers in two-thirds of police precincts, and the creation of a 24-hour hotline staffed by specially-trained Special Victims Division investigators, to which people can anonymously report trafficking. Commissioner O’Neill has publicly affirmed that victims, especially youth and children, should not be punished for coerced acts. Keeping with this affirmation, his initiative prioritizes arresting pimps, johns, and traffickers, some of which has been accomplished through increased use of technology to catch individuals responding to prostitution ads. This represents an important shift in law enforcement that addresses the root of the problem: ending demand.


Monique Villa

CEO Thomson Reuters Foundation

Freedom Award



Monique Villa is CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation and founder of TrustLaw. Under Villa’s leadership, Thomson Reuters has strengthened its commitment to free and independent journalism, covering issues that mainstream media often overlook, from human rights abuses to endemic corruption.

Since her appointment in 2008, Villa has launched a number of groundbreaking programs that leverage the expertise of Thomson Reuters to trigger change and empower people across the world. In 2010, Villa launched TrustLaw with the goal of increasing the practice of pro bono law worldwide. Villa also launched the Trust Conference to promote the empowerment of women and to fight human trafficking, and Trust Women, a fast-growing movement to empower women and fight slavery worldwide. At their annual conference, Trust Women delegates take action and forge tangible commitments to empower women to know and defend their rights.


Julia Zeng & Rumana Khan

Y-ACT Co-Presidents, Brooklyn Technical High School

Next Gen Award



Julia Zeng and Rumana Khan are seniors at Brooklyn Technical High School. Together, as co-presidents of Youth Against Child Trafficking (Y-ACT), they have built their high school's Y-ACT Club to over 50 members, mobilizing students to take action on child trafficking in their community and around the world.


About Y-ACT

Since its inception in 2014, ECPAT-USA’s Y-ACT program has served over 3,000 New York City youth. In 2016 a Brooklyn Technical High School (BTHS) student, with the full support of administration, introduced Y-ACT to her school. Since then, the BTHS Y-ACT leaders have taken action to address the issue of child sex trafficking in a variety of ways. They began by creating their own website based on their own research, featuring information, poetry created by survivors, and articles about youth-led anti-trafficking efforts around the world. The club has organized school-wide assemblies, hosted guest speakers, and participated in global art exhibits to spread awareness of trafficking. As a result of their efforts, the BTHS Y-ACT Club is now a fully self-sustaining club with over 50 members. BTHS Y-ACT members are proud to lend their voices and skills to the international anti-trafficking movement.

4 Ways to Fight Trafficking this Fall

This fall, join us in the fight to end child trafficking. 

We're sharing 4 ways you can help in the coming days, weeks, and season. Together, we can protect every child's basic human right to grow up free.


1. Join Us for the Freedom Awards

You're invited! Celebrate leaders in the fight to end child trafficking while supporting our vital work to ensure no child is bought or sold. This November 9, we're honoring the CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation, Monique Villa, and New York City Police Commissioner, James P. O'Neill.


2. Fight Trafficking on Your Next Trip

Follow our "No Vacancy" blog series to learn how you can fight trafficking when you travel. Read the latest here.


3. Spread the Word on #AnyKidAnySchool

School age children in the U.S. are at risk for trafficking. View our latest PSA and get involved in your community. Learn more.


4. Join ECPAT-USA for a Film Screening

Join ECPAT-USA this evening at the Brooklyn Public Library for a free screening of "In Our Backyard." Register here.