Local organization works to educate others on the dangers of trafficking


Stephanie Olson, CEO of the Set Me Free Project, teaches a social media safety presentation to an adult group in Iowa. Photo courtesy to Summer Woolsey and Set Me Free Project team.

Faith Worden, Reporter

According to Homeland Security, “human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” This is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world.

This movement was not made illegal in the United States until 2000 because of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).

The most common types of human slavery in which the traffickers exploit their victims into are sex work, forced labor and organ removal and selling.

While trafficking is larger and more common in larger cities such as Las Vegas, Atlanta and New York, it enters into the areas where you don’t expect it to occur as well.

In this, local organization named the Set Me Free Project is working to prevent the act of trafficking through educating people of all ages on this subject in several different forms. Not only are they in Omaha, but they are located in 400 schools between Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, with reach in Kansas and Illinois.

Stephanie Olson, CEO of the Set Me Free Project, is willing and passionate to educate people of all ages on what trafficking is.

A lot of people don’t think human trafficking is what it is,” Olson said. “That is one of the biggest things we try to educate people on: what it looks like and what it doesn’t look like. With youth primarily, I think that recognizing that we are all at risk for being trafficked is important. It is unfortunately among us all the time.”

While existing for six years, Stephanie Olson, the CEO, has had many opportunities with figuring out what is going to work for this organization. Some main components that organizations focusing on the end of human trafficking are victim services, prevention education and case management.

I think what makes us unique is that we are the only prevention education organization that just focuses on that,” Olson said. “Everyone else has another component such as victim services. It makes us unique because it gives us the opportunity to strictly focus on prevention and be excellent with that.”

Prevention education is a method designed to teach others on a topic (human trafficking) through blatantly telling what it is, addressing the dangers of it and answering questions based on these topics. The Set Me Free project offers curriculum on sex trafficking, but depending on the age group and the needs of wherever they are teaching, can tailor to certain needs.

The curriculum that we use is our own so we have a curriculum team that includes a curriculum specialist who has a Master’s in Education and Curriculum Development,” she explained.We work very hard to make sure it’s following federal guidelines and standards. We have a curriculum from third grade to college students for youth and in that we have several different topics such as sex trafficking, social media safety and healthy relationships. Some of them all align into one curriculum, but they are also separate stand alone curriculum, too.”

Another unique factor in addition to their organization being strictly built on prevention education is their Youth Advisory Board, otherwise known as YAB.

This brand new piece of the Set Me Free project gives high school students the opportunity to work on curriculum, presentations and take a big role in the educating and bringing an end to trafficking.

The youth board is our biggest and most exciting launch right now. We are so excited to see what type of ideas a youth voice can bring, so that is our biggest focus right now. We want to make sure the youth are part of the conversation and helping guide what we do,” Olson said.

Prevention is a key part of the Set Me Free Project education. Though they are taking this step, they cannot be the only ones.

“Prevention has to be community wide. It cannot be just one organization or one person,” Olson explained. “It has to be everyone in the community understanding what human trafficking really is and wanting to stop it.”


Set Me Free Project website: https://www.setmefreeproject.net/

Youth Advisory Board (YAB) application (still open): https://www.setmefreeproject.net/yabapp