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United States

Photo by Steve Adams

San Diego’s underground sex economy is estimated to be $810 million annually. In fact, over 3,500 children and adults are trafficked in San Diego each year. Schools across San Diego County have confirmed that traffickers actively recruit children on or near school campuses, and the average age of entry into sex trafficking is 16 years old.

“This program is a pathway to a healthier community with less domestic violence, sexual abuse and gang violence.”
– Summer Stephan, San Diego County District Attorney

To help combat this issue, PCI is implementing Project ROOTS (formerly known as Girls Only! and Boys Only!) in partnership with the San Diego Unified School District, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater San Diego and the San Diego District Attorney’s Office.

Project ROOTS is an after-school program that addresses the root causes of gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and unhealthy relationships through group mentoring and social emotional learning. As a primary prevention program, it aims to build protective factors in elementary-and middle school-aged youth through three central themes: Empathy, Equality and Empowerment.

In 2018, Project ROOTS served a total of 220 boys and girls (ages 8-13) at 12 schools in San Diego and the Boys and Girls Clubs –Encanto Branch. Most of the sites are in underserved areas that experience high rates of poverty, gang activity, violence and sex trafficking.

To learn more about how this after-school program empowers San Diego youth to be safe and resilient, meet Bernadete Leal, a Project ROOTS facilitator for PCI.