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Full-ride scholarship for sex trafficking victims in the works at Christian college

‘The last thing we would want is to set someone up for failure’ by not providing crucial resources

Victims of sex trafficking will have a chance to get a college education for free, thanks to a new scholarship fund at Point Loma Nazarene University that appears to be the first of its kind in the country.

Beauty for Ashes, named after a verse in the book of Isaiah, is scheduled to launch a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo Oct. 30 with a goal to raise $40,000 in 40 days.

The school also plans to provide ongoing support for Beauty for Ashes through a donation page. The fund was started with the idea that it may need to be endowed, so that the scholarship can survive off of interest.

“The crowd fund is a public platform, a way to get the word out about what we’re up to, to a wide audience. It’s as much about friend raising as fund raising,” sociology professor Jamie Gates, director of the school’s Center for Justice & Reconciliation, told The College Fix by email.

The fund is intended to pay for one sex trafficking victim to attend the school, which costs $30,800 in tuition and $9,600 for room and board per year.

“In practice, the fund will be used to support each applicant across all four years at PLNU; we want to remain faithful until completion,” said Gates.

San Diego, where PLNU is based, is allegedly a hotbed of sex trafficking, identified as one of the FBI’s “high intensity child prostitution areas.”

“Aside from a deep faith in Christ and a loving Christian congregation to surround them, there may be no more important long-term intervention for the rehabilitation of survivors of human trafficking than the loving, academically challenging and carefully mentored environment of a Christian university education,” according to the Beauty for Ashes donation page.

It tells prospective donors their pledges will “launch many passionate young people into meaningful careers that tackle modern slavery with wisdom and mentorship.”


Sex trafficking victims applying for the scholarship must be referred or endorsed by one of the 15 local nonprofits that PLNU and Beauty for Ashes work with. Those include the Salvation Army’s Door of Hope, Interfaith Center for Worker Justice and Hidden Treasures.

Gates said that leaders of these organizations are excited about the new fund and partnership with PLNU, which will give survivors their next step in their recovery process.

At the moment “there is at least one, and maybe more, woman in the application process” for the scholarship, Kim Berry Jones, an alumna who’s heading up the crowdfunding campaign, told The Fix by email.

“We are working with an admissions staff person to make sure these candidates get the support they need during the process,” she said.

Beauty for Ashes leaders acknowledge that scholarship recipients’ success will depend on their hard work and determination, though the school will pair those recipients with student mentors on campus.

“The last thing we would want is to set someone up for failure,” so the school will work on a case-by-case basis “on having the right supports on campus” to help recipients, whether it’s academic support, the Wellness Center or resident advisers, Gates said. Anonymity will be the “default” for recipients, but they will also be given the opportunity to share their story as a “survivor advocate.”

mombaby.publicdomainpictures.pixabayIf a survivor has children, Beauty for Ashes will work with the previous organization that helped the victim to see if there are options for childcare.

There’s a possibility that the school’s Early Childhood Learning Center could work with the survivor, Gates said. “Knowing my colleagues, I would imagine our staff at the ECLC bending over backwards to making room for those needs.”

Generate Hope, which offers a recovery program for sex trafficking victims, supports the Beauty for Ashes fund. That group “tells us regularly that survivors tell them that going to college is one of their dreams,” said crowdfunding leader Jones, who is also a volunteer mentor at Generate Hope.

Leaders hope that Beauty for Ashes will be able to fund more than one victim’s education per year.

“Long term we’ll continue to rely on the generosity of those that believe in supporting survivors to a PLNU education,” said Gates. “We believe our students, alumni, staff, faculty, administrators, friends and others of good conscience are up to the task.”

College Fix reporter Samantha Watkins is a student at Point Loma Nazarene University.

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IMAGES: Dean Ayres/Flickr, Point Loma Nazarene University, Public Domain Pictures/Pixabay

About the Author
Samantha Watkins is a broadcast journalism and theatre double major at Point Loma Nazarene University. She is the director of activities and design, editor for the features section of The Point, manager of Coastline News, and is part of Turning Point, a dance ministry on campus. Samantha can also be seen on stage acting at Salomon Theatre.

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