Huntington Beach High School students recently took time to educate peers and parents about human rights problems and how to make their campus safer.
Bullying, human trafficking, sexual abuse and other topics were discussed May 30 at the school's fourth annual Social Justice Evening in the student center.
"Tonight is about social justice," student Mahea Wu said. "People ask how we can put a stop to this, and I think we have to raise awareness. We're taking that first step tonight by having this event."
The event was organized by Huntington Beach High students involved with Bridges, a program of the OC Human Relations council that educates teens countywide on how to create safe school environments. Huntington's Amnesty International and Gay-Straight Alliance clubs co-organized the event.
The yearlong Bridges program touches on an array of topics, such as bullying, poverty, racism and gay and lesbian equality, English teacher and program advisor Kimberly McGlaughlin said.
She said she weaves Bridges lessons into her English classes.
"I'm doing a unit of this with my sophomores," McGlaughlin said. "We're talking about white privilege, racism and classism. We're just trying to bring awareness to the students."
Mahea, 16, recently joined the program as a way to help find a solution to social injustices, especially human trafficking. The sophomore gave a presentation to about 40 people about modern day slavery.
"We're told that slavery was abolished, but yet it's still occurring today, and it's actually occurring right in our backyards, right under our noses," Mahea said. "It just makes me realize how big this issue is because it's happening all around us, not just in foreign countries, but in the U.S."
Bridges advisor Don Han said the program, which has been operating in Orange County for about 25 years and at Huntington Beach High for six, has become an important teaching tool in the face of violent crimes across the nation.
"They don't want this happening or ever happening in Huntington Beach," Han said. "So they're promoting non-violence, unity and things that make people feel safe."