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Stopping Traffic

March 01, 2015 - 3 minute read

Amanda Ozaki

I was homeschooled but refused to take my work super seriously a lot of the time. I would mess around, procrastinate and try to avoid chemistry and algebra.

Then, in my sophomore year of high school, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Doctors caught it early but it jarred me. This can happen to anyone, I realized. Mom’s battle reshaped the way I saw life. Our family grew closer and rallied around her. Because Mom was my teacher, she wasn’t able to check up on my schoolwork anymore, but seeing her strength motivated me to make her proud.

Neither of my parents had attended a four-year college, so I set a new goal: to get my bachelor’s degree. Our finances were hit hard when Mom was on chemotherapy and my dream of going to college was not a sure thing.

Debate opened the door. Though I didn’t like speaking in front of people, I had joined a small homeschool debate team which forced me out of my shell. My confidence grew with my success.

In my senior year, my debate partner and I traveled from our homes in Elk Grove to Concordia University Irvine and won the huge homeschool debate tournament there. We didn't lose a single debate round, and I was named top speaker. Konrad Hack, CUI’s forensics coach, handed me the trophy and said, “You’re coming here next year, right?” I hadn’t known if I was good enough to compete at the college level, but Concordia University Irvine’s scholarship offer was a huge sign from God that I was able, and my dream was from him.

I had immediate success in debate tournaments, and later was a TA for the history department, a student assistant for CUI Bono, a library employee and a Latin tutor.

The self- motivation and discipline I learned during Mom’s cancer helped me manage the complexity of college. Better than all that, Mom made a full recovery and is now cancer-free.

At Concordia I discovered my passion: working against human trafficking. During my freshman year I gave a persuasive speech on the subject and felt the Lord place a desire in my heart to work in this specific area. I soon discovered the Live to Free club and became president for the next three years. It was truly the Lord’s timing.

The club helps with the Illumination Foundation in Orange County which offers health clinics to the impoverished and homeless. We work with the Wellness Center on campus to present the Clothesline Project, an awareness event. Our goal is for people to know how pervasive human trafficking is. Los Angeles and San Diego are hotbeds for this terrible industry because of the ports. In the U.S. it’s estimated that 100,000 women and children are trapped in the sex trafficking industry. Prime candidates are young children who live in broken homes, foster care and poverty. Traffickers use drug promises of love, jobs and a safe home—any manipulation to take advantage of someone’s social circumstances. Fear tactics, psychological manipulation and drug addiction keep victims enslaved.

I want people to know this is not a distant problem.

I want people to know this is not a distant problem. Concordia has taught me that as a Christian and an educated person I have a moral responsibility to help others. I go back to what I learned in my first seminar class: to be a wise, honorable and cultivated citizen. That means doing what the Great Commission says: go into the world and bring others to Christ.

I’m excited in May to become the first person in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree. This summer I will marry fellow CUI debater Joe Laughon ’13, then hope to attend graduate school in preparation for working with humanitarian organizations on the problem of human trafficking. Concordia taught me the definition of being a servant and how to act as a cultivated citizen. For that, and for all of God’s goodness, I am grateful.

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