Erin Coggins, a Levine Scholar and sophomore at UNC Charlotte, has always found ways to give back to others in her community. But a summer internship with a local nonprofit organization dedicated to combating the sexual abuse, exploitation, and trafficking of teen girls in the Charlotte area has helped Ms. Coggins find her voice as an advocate. During the past year, she has worked to increase awareness in the Charlotte community about the extent and pervasiveness of abuse and trafficking in the city, and is exploring the multitude of ways that citizens can help end the devastation of its occurrence. Erin has studied the policies, practices, and impact of sexual exploitation in South Africa and intends to broaden her understanding of this worldwide calamity. As a social work and communication major she is exploring the issues from multiple perspectives to equip herself to make a difference at the community and individual level. It is clear that Ms. Coggins will continue to speak for those who have no voice, and educate members of the broader community in the ways they can seek solutions to end the exploitation of young women and girls.
Service and civic engagement have always been an integral part of my identity. My heart breaks for the hurting and the oppressed, and I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to explore my passions and study how to truly promote social change through my undergraduate career. I have found my voice in advocating for the silenced victims of sex trafficking in Charlotte, North Carolina. Connecting the skills I've acquired from working with a local, faith-based nonprofit to my academic coursework in Social Work and Communication Studies has taught me how to look at the interdisciplinary manifestation of the root issue of cultural devaluation of women. In addition, studying the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and healthcare system of South Africa on victims of abuse, financially vulnerable teen girls, and female sex workers has given me a more comprehensive perspective on a global issue. I have been involved in presenting heartbreaking statistics, training volunteers, building community partnerships, and organizing fundraisers to bring awareness to the seemingly invisible issue of trafficking. I am thrilled to champion this cause and determined to live a life that serves and empowers others to create sustainable change in their communities.