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Mercer’s Traffick Jam educates youth about sex trafficking

Mercer University students, from left, Max Burke, Paulina Molina, Marlo Banton and Jack Lamb merchandise model Traffic Jam.

For seven years, Mercer University students have worked to raise awareness about sex trafficking and educate ninth graders in the Macon area about the warning signs and its dangers.

When the COVID-19 pandemic prevented college students from enrolling in high school this spring, Traffic Jam’s faculty leader decided to use the time to innovate the curriculum. The changes could help other universities adopt and spread the program in their communities.

Tammy Crushfield

“I really thought of it as an opportunity rather than a constraint after I literally had tears thinking about possibly not going to school,” said Dr. Tammy Crutchfield, Associate Dean and Professor of Marketing at the Stetson-Hatcher School of Business.

She created an innovation team made up of graphic designers, content writers and videographers, as well as students who had previously taught the program in schools. Together, they re-engineered the Traffick Jam curriculum.

Dr. said. Crutchfield This new curriculum includes a video component that will help maintain consistency in the presentation of the material. The workbook, which will be given to all 9th ​​graders in the programme, will provide direction and organization. Additional materials have been added from Strengths, a suicide prevention program.

The revised curriculum will be published in Bibb County schools this spring.

“We will test it and try it out and see what our target market thinks, then roll it out more broadly,” said Dr. Crutchfield, who has interest in the program from other universities.

Prevention is the key

Traffick Jam is a social brand created, owned, managed and implemented by Mercer students with the goal of preventing youth trafficking for sex. It began in 2014 when Dr. Crutchfield’s students were associated with another anti-sex trafficking program.

Dr. Crutchfield said: “When they started doing the research and showing the video (of the other program) to young people and then understanding their attitudes, perceptions and opinions as a result, they said, ‘This is necessary but not sufficient.'” And so, they wanted to build their own brand.

Traffick Jam is part of three undergraduate classes, two of which – MKT 415: Marketing Research and MKT 475: Strategic Marketing Management – have been entered into a year-long experience. Students take the Marketing Research class in the fall and then implement their marketing plan during the Strategic Marketing Management class in the spring.

Students can also take CSL 200: Community Learning Service, which prepares and sends students to high schools in the spring.

9th graders participate in Traffick Jam as part of a physical and health education class. Classes are divided into boys and girls, to allow for more open discussion of the sensitive topic. Mercer students meet with high school students twice a week for six weeks.

Mercer students act as mentors and spend the first two sessions with the ninth graders, getting to know the students and building relationships.

“We go out there and play basketball with these kids, we play football around, we kind of get to know them and focus on building relationships,” said Max Burke, dual major in marketing and management. “We don’t even talk about what Traffick Jam is, and why we’re there. It’s really just focusing on building relationships with them and getting to know them better.”

After this association is formed, Mercer students begin offering materials to new students.

“A lot of these kids have experienced[sex trafficking]firsthand, whether they know someone from their family or friends,” Burke said. “We can talk to someone who has had this happen. So, it is a very serious topic to talk to them about.”

Traffick Jam research shows that 11% of high school students in the community know someone who is selling themselves for sex, and 8% know someone who has been forced to sell themselves for sex.

For this reason, the curriculum focuses not only on awareness but on prevention.

If we don’t educate students (about sex trafficking), how can it be prevented? Dr. Crutchfield said the only way to really stop it is through prevention.

Thousands affected

Many Mercer students participate in more than one aspect of the class.

Burke was also involved in the commercial side of the project, working on the marketing team where he focused on merchandising.

Their research showed that many Mercer students didn’t feel comfortable wearing the “in-your-face” T-shirts Traffic Jam was selling, so his team worked to make the brand simpler, he said.

“Our goal was to raise awareness but also to make a shirt that students would feel comfortable wearing anywhere,” he said. “We’ve incorporated a few things into our marketing. Instead of having these big graphic logos, we’re going to put these short sayings on them and kind of make the T-shirts and merchandising a conversation starter.”

Dr Crutchfield said merchandise sales, along with events and sponsorships, allow Traffick Jam to be fully funded.

Since its inception, about 500 Mercer students have participated in Traffick Jam, which has reached more than 4,000 high school students.

“I really believed in what we were working with, but I also loved the hands-on experience,” said Sarah Beth Amos Blair, who participated in Traffick Jam as an undergraduate and is now pursuing an MBA at Mercer. “I loved the bonds you built when we were in schools with the new students.

“But then as a marketing professional, I loved the hands-on experience, and it worked out really well for me. I definitely gained the skills and experience that I have used after the course in my life.”

Carter Burgerson, a Double Bear who graduated with a BA in 2020 and completed his MBA in 2021, said being part of Traffick Jam’s analytical team helped him figure out what he wanted to do for a career.

“I really, really got a little deeper into the analytics side. I loved it,” said Burgerson, who is now an account manager at a technology company. “Being able to capture trends and analyze data in a way that can lead to actual results is kind of the name of the game for my business. right Now.

“Overall I would say it was a very comprehensive experience and if I give advice to anyone I went to school with, it has always been a great Traffick Jam to be a part of, especially if you want to make a difference.”

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