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Orange Coast College student, a sex trafficking survivor, receives $10,000 Soroptimist award

Laneisha Brown was selected as a federation award honoree through Soroptimist International of Huntington Beach.
Laneisha Brown, 32, who attends Orange Coast College, was selected as a federation award honoree through Soroptimist International of Huntington Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Laneisha Brown has been through so much in her 32 years of life.

From being raised in the foster system to having a child at age 15, to surviving domestic violence, sex trafficking and homelessness, Brown easily could have been a statistic.

“I felt like I was an alien, to be completely honest with you,” Brown said. “No one wanted to touch me, no one wanted to help me. I was by myself ... [My life has been] dog years. For me, I didn’t know when it was going to stop, when I was going to make it through the tunnel and see the light.”

But the statistics that are staggering for the Orange Coast College student are the cash grants she has received, through a partnership with Soroptimist International of Huntington Beach’s “Live Your Dream” awards.

Brown won a $2,000 grant at the club level, then a $5,000 award at the regional level.

Recently she also became one of three women worldwide to receive a $10,000 Soroptimist International federation-level award. She is the first federation awardee in the history of Soroptimist International of Huntington Beach, which was founded in 1963.

“When I received the second [award], I was so caught up with the certificate in my hand,” she said. “The money is great, of course, but to be honest, I’ve touched money in my lifetime. It was meaningful where the money came from, and the purpose behind it. I can use that, and will use that, on transfer applications, on job interviews, resumes, everything. With all of the guilt and shame that I held onto, now I have other things that I can hold onto that are great and wonderful for me.”

Brown will be honored Sunday afternoon with a celebration at the Assistance League of Huntington Beach. The event is important enough that the president of Soroptimist International of the Americas, Kazuko Morita, will be joining via Zoom from Japan to welcome the in-person and virtual guests.

Brown, who now has three children, lives in the Orange County area but didn’t want to elaborate further for privacy reasons. She’s majoring in sociology at OCC. When she transfers to a four-year college, she plans to study public policy, to help out others who may have been in similar situations.

“I picked her application mostly because of what she wanted to do with her life,” said Terry Rose of Soroptimist International of Huntington Beach, adding that stopping human trafficking in Orange County is a focus of the organization.

Brown wants to maybe be a city councilwoman or congresswoman in the future. She still has much of her life ahead of her, despite all that she has already been through. She recently stopped using an alias.

“I wanted to be normal so bad for so many years,” she said. “Now I have it, and now there’s more to do, which is wonderful, but I get caught up in that. What’s new for me is stepping outside of my alias, that guilt and shame.”

Jim Carson, executive director of anti-trafficking organization Survivor 2 Leader, has known Brown since she was a teenager. He can see how far she has come.

At the end of this month, he’s asking her to again speak to a class at Pepperdine University that deals with the commercial sexual exploitation of children and works on policy.

“She’s awesome,” Carson said. “No other way to say it.”

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