Students create awareness of sex trafficking

Blacksburg, Va., April 21 – Campus Fundraiser: Members of “It Happens Here” raise money to furnish rooms in a safe house outside of Squires Student Center. Photo: Jordan White

by Whitney Turner–

Three Virginia Tech students have created an organization on campus to raise awareness of sex trafficking in Virginia called “It Happens Here.”

After working with victims of sex trafficking while on a mission trip together last spring break, Jordan White and Caroline Omland decided to use this issue as a platform for White’s homecoming campaign. When the homecoming campaign ended, White, Omland and their friend Kirsten Mitchell decided they didn’t want to stop educating people on this issue.

“We didn’t really see that people knew fully what it was or even that it existed in America or even that it existed at all,” said Mitchell. “So we really want to see people become more aware.”

In 2016, the National Human Trafficking Hotline reported that out of 148 cases of human trafficking in Virginia, 105 of them were sex trafficking cases.

In addition to education, “It Happens Here” seeks to fundraise and change legislation to combat this issue.

Having not had a haircut for over two and a half years, White used his mane to create a fundraiser to benefit Street Ransom, a safe house for victims of sex trafficking located in Roanoke, Va. By donating money to furnish rooms in the safe house, participants could vote on whether White should dread his hair, wear it as a fro, let it keep growing or get a buzz cut.

“Our initial goal was to furnish one room, $700 to $730 a room and we passed that in the first six hours,” said White. “Then we raised it to three rooms and we passed that a little over halfway through the campaign. So then we upped it to $5,000, which would furnish all of the rooms in the safe home.”

By the end of the fundraiser, White’s hair had raised $4,570 and won him a buzz cut.

White, Omland and Mitchell were surprised by the overwhelming interest and support their organization has received so far and they are hopeful that they can make a difference.

“I think people automatically assume that awareness isn’t really doing anything, that it’s not actually fighting against sex trafficking, but it is,” said Mitchell. “Because when you learn about it you’re stirred to action, you’re stirred to talk about it, you’re stirred to make other people realize this is happening.”

Blacksburg, Va., April 25 – Raising Awareness: Kirsten Mitchell hopes to raise awareness of sex trafficking on Virginia Tech’s campus. Photo: Jun Yu

Powwow highlights diversity on VT campus

Blacksburg, Va., April 1 — Event Welcome: Native at Virginia Tech held their first powwow on the Graduate Life Center lawn. Photo: Whitney Turner

by Whitney Turner–

Native at Virginia Tech, the American Indian and Indigenous community organization on campus, hosted its first powwow April 1.

Students and community members gathered on the lawn of the Graduate Life Center to watch local tribes share their history and culture. The event featured Native American singing, dancing and drumming. As well as vendors selling Native arts and crafts, jewelry and other handmade items.

As an organization with only 21 members, Native’s powwow was significant in calling attention to their community and presence on campus.

The Collegiate Times recently reported that Virginia Tech’s incoming class of 2021 is historically diverse. Chrissy Shammas, Native at Virginia Tech member, hopes that an increase in diversity will strengthen the university’s sense of community.

“I know there are a lot of people who don’t come from as diverse backgrounds and I think it’s important to educate them on other people’s histories and other people’s cultures because that creates an environment of understanding and respect for each other,” said Shammas. “So I’m hoping with a more diverse student population we can have kind of more education.”

Native was recently gifted a room in Squires Student Center to serve as the American Indian and Indigenous Community Center on campus. With their own space, they are looking forward to growing as an organization and programming more cultural events.

“We’re definitely already thinking about the next powwow next spring,” said Shammas. “And we’ll hopefully be bringing more speakers and more tribal council meetings to the university.”

As Virginia Tech steadily expands, diversity and cultural understanding will only continue to grow.

Say Y.E.S. to making healthy choices on campus

Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 25 – Owens Hall: Owens dining hall is home to 12 specialty shops serving both American and international cuisine.


by Whitney Turner–

When it comes to fending off the “freshman 15,” students at Virginia Tech have to fight some serious temptations. While the nationally ranked dining halls do their best to advertise their healthy options, it is easy to fall victim to their gourmet desserts and garlic whipped mashed potatoes.

Virginia Tech senior Sarah Pierce believes the reason that students struggle to opt for healthy food choices is not because the university doesn’t provide them, but because students are usually pressed for time.

“I think the less healthy options have shorter lines,” said Pierce. “Since they go quicker, people stand in lines for those so they don’t have to wait as long. Whereas the salad line always takes longer.”

As a college student constantly on the move, fast meals or grab-and-go options can be more appealing.

“If you are super vigilant about eating right and going to the gym then you’re probably more likely to eat a salad,” said Pierce. “But if you’re just like ‘Oh, I need to go eat dinner, I’m not sure what I want,’ then it’s more likely you’re not going to eat as healthy.”

The university’s You’re Eating Smarter (Y.E.S.) program works to design menus that offer fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy options, whole grains and proteins. According to Virginia Tech’s website, the Y.E.S. program responded to student requests for healthier grab-and-go items with the creation of the Y.E.S. to Go.

In addition to creating and providing a variety of wholesome meals, the Y.E.S. program seeks to educate students about how to make smart choices. While Y.E.S provides nutritional facts and information online and on table cards throughout the dining centers, their efforts to reach students may not be enough.

“They should list the calories on the signs beside each menu item,” said Pierce. “Because you can look it up online but when you’re there ordering something you kind of have to guess which option is best.”

To help guide students even further, the Y.E.S. program has blog outlining how to be a “healthier Hokie.” A cheat sheet that outlines the best options for a balanced diet at each shop in every dining hall on campus is listed on the site.

For additional assistance on staying healthy, Y.E.S. hosts nutrition education events at dining halls and encourages students to reach out directly to dining service’s dietitians.

Although the cheesecakes and cannoli may look tempting, for Virginia Tech students saying Y.E.S. is the key to looking and feeling your best.