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UNT Fall Forum addresses human trafficking
From staff reports
Survivors will share their stories and a team of four panelists will lead a discussion about “Sex Trafficking: Modern Day Slavery” in the annual Fall Forum presented by the University of North Texas College of Public Affairs and Community Service in partnership with New Friends New Life.
The free event will be held from 11 a.m. to noon Thursday in the University Union Silver Eagle Suite, one block west of Welch and West Prairie streets. A free picnic lunch will follow the event.
“The purpose of the PACS Fall Forum is to welcome students back to UNT by providing them with an opportunity to learn about an important and interesting community problem that affects all of them, regardless of their major,” said Dr. Thomas Evenson, dean of the UNT College of Public Affairs and Community Service. “The idea is to engage students in an educational experience that is ‘off-the-beaten learning path’ and that is likely to stay with them long after they graduate and leave UNT.”
Panelists are: Brooke Grona-Robb, an assistant district attorney in Dallas County who has been supervising the human trafficking and internet crimes against children unit of the organized crime division for the past five years; Melissa Miles, who heads the city’s code compliance litigation section in the Dallas city attorney’s office; Katie Pedigo, executive director of New Friends New Life, a Dallas-Fort Worth area organization that encourages women to leave the sex industry and build new lives; Dr. Irie Session, protégé advocate, the spiritual support coordinator for New Friends New Life and Mike Vincent, sergeant with the Addison Police Department assigned to the criminal investigations division and head of the hotel/business retention unit, which investigates vice and narcotics crimes.
“New Friends New Life is honored to partner with UNT to raise awareness on the important human rights issue of the sexual exploitation and trafficking of American women and girls,” Pedigo said. “The fall forum will highlight the responsibility and challenges of giving empowerment to the degraded, hope to the hopeless and freedom to the enslaved.”
Grona-Robb is an assistant district attorney in Dallas County. Grona-Robb received her law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 2000. She is the deputy chief prosecutor of the organized crime division and has been supervising the human trafficking and internet crimes against children unit of the organized crime division for the past five years. Grona-Robb has met with police officers investigating these cases and works with them regularly to assist with the investigation from inception to final disposition. Grona-Robb trains law enforcement and other individuals in issues involving human trafficking, and she has written an article for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association titled “Prosecuting Human Traffickers” that appeared in the September-October 2010 issue of The Prosecutor.
Miles, a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, spent the first several years of her career at an international law firm in a litigation practice representing governmental entities. In 2007, she joined the Dallas city attorney’s office and currently heads the city’s code compliance litigation section. During her tenure with the city of Dallas, Miles has specialized in the regulation of sexually oriented businesses, which include adult cabarets. After conducting a two-year study of the human trafficking issues that persisted in Dallas’ adult cabarets, Miles authored the city’s current sexually oriented business ordinance, which contains novel regulations that have dramatically reduced Dallas’ adult cabarets as a destination for human trafficking victims. Miles’ work with the Dallas Police Department’s vice unit is also credited with closing more than 50 businesses that served as destination locations for human trafficking in Dallas. She is currently working with DPD’s crimes against children section to develop strategies to combat the trafficking of children through the use of the internet.
With more than 15 years of experience in management, strategic planning and result-driven operations, Pedigo has a proven ability to develop a vision, achieve consensus and deliver results in a wide variety of corporate and nonprofit settings. Pedigo possesses strong interpersonal communication skills and the leadership skills to spearhead change and execute innovative initiatives.
Pedigo graduated from Texas A&M University in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in business management. She received her law degree from Southern Methodist University in 1998. She began working in the home care industry in 1998 in human resources, business operations and government compliance. She served as general counsel for a home care company beginning in 2003. In 2007, Pedigo’s passion moved to the non-profit sector. She was named the founding executive director of Encompass Cares, which raises funds and distributes grants for medical missions, community assistance and employee emergency hardships. Her philosophy is that being a good corporate citizen is not only the right thing to do, but it also builds the company’s reputation, community support, employee loyalty and consumer trust. Pedigo has served many nonprofit organizations including the Christ Clinic in Dallas, Park Cities YMCA, Christian Works for Children and Letot Capital Campaign Advisory Board. In 2009, Pedigo was named a “Hero for Children” by the Texas Education Commission. She is currently a fellow in the Public Voices Thought Leadership Institute and the executive director of New Friends New Life. She has a passion for empowering and equipping women and children to realize their potentials with transformed lives.
Session has more than 25 years of experience working with children and families in high-risk situations. She has been a senior parole officer for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, an investigator for Child Protective Services, and the adolescent coordinator for Bryan’s House, serving youth and families impacted by HIV/AIDS.
Session holds a doctor of ministry in transformative leadership with a concentration in prophetic preaching from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in New York and a master’s of divinity from Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University. She serves as a protégé advocate, the spiritual support coordinator for New Friends New Life, and is senior pastor of Warren Avenue Christian Church in Dallas.
In 2009, Session was the recipient of the Distinguished Ministers Award for Innovative Ministry by the Brite Divinity School Alumni Association and in that same year received the Legacy Torch Award from the Urban League of Greater Dallas for Outstanding Service to the Dallas Community. In September 2011, she received the “Women Who Make A Difference” award for exemplary service to the Dallas Community.
Vincent is a sergeant with the Addison Police Department, currently assigned to the criminal investigations division. Vincent heads the hotel/business retention unit, which is a team of detectives investigating vice and narcotics crimes. Much of his time is spent on cases involving prostitution, massage parlors, human trafficking, sting operations and “plain clothes” assignments. Vincent has been with the Addison police for eight years, and attended Texas A&M University where he was a member of the Corps of Cadets and graduated with a marketing degree.
For information contact Jamie Young, communications and alumni relations coordinator for the College of Public Affairs and Community Service, at 940-369-7439 or visit www.pacs.unt.edu.
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