Woman who escaped child sex trafficking to deliver Bonner lecture

September 14, 2012

A woman who received a harsh education on the streets of central California will tell her story of triumph and giving back at the Bonner & Bonner Diversity Lecture at Emporia State University. Carissa Phelps will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, in Albert Taylor Hall.

Carissa PhelpsBy the age of 13, Phelps was a statistic — runaway, dropout and victim of child sex trafficking. With those labels, she expected to end up in prison, or worse. Instead, a teacher and a counselor at juvenile hall saw Phelps’ potential.

By the time she was 30, Phelps had used education as a way out, earning first a bachelor’s degree from California State University Fresno then both an MBA and law degree from UCLA. Now, Phelps has returned to the streets to help homeless and at-risk youth find their own better lives.

Phelps’ story is told in both “Carissa,” a short documentary by David Sauvage, and her new book, “Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time,” written with Larkin Warren and published in July. She recently created Runaway Girl, Inc., through which she advocates for runaway and homeless youth and works to stop human trafficking.

The Bonner lecture is free, but tickets for reserved seating are required. Call (620) 341-6378 or (877) 341-6378 for tickets.

Copies of “Runaway Girl” (Viking, $26.95) are available at the Memorial Union Bookstore on the Emporia State campus. They also will be sold in the Plumb Hall Rotunda after the lecture, and Phelps will be available to sign them.

During her visit to Emporia State, Phelps also will meet with students for breakfast on Thursday and speak in a classroom. For more information about Phelps, go to www.carissaphelps.com.

The Bonner and Bonner Lecture Series was established in 1992 by Drs. Thomas and Mary Bonner, ESU’s first and second African American faculty members. In 2002, it received a $400,000 from Pepsi and was renamed the Bonner and Bonner Diversity Lecture Series.

The series provides a valuable window to diversity, promoting tolerance and understanding on campus, in the community and throughout the state. For more information, go to www.emporia.edu/bonner.

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