By Micaela Myers
On April 9, students from across the country will devote 24 hours to Stand for Freedom “to make a stand for the estimated 30 million people trapped in slavery in the world,” says Daniel De Cecco, a senior at the University of Wyoming and president of UW’s International Justice Mission (IJM) chapter. UW’s IJM members will join the stand on Prexy’s Pasture.
“I want people to know that human trafficking and other forms of violence are rampant in the world today—even in the United States and in Wyoming,” De Cecco says. “When people are aware of human trafficking and use their own passions, skills and resources that they have to advocate for those oppressed by violence, together we can make an enormous impact.”
De Cecco, originally from Green River, Wyo., knows people can make an impact, because he has made an impact. After beginning to volunteer with IJM three years ago, he quickly took on leadership positions. “In 2012 and 2013, our IJM chapter members and I campaigned to pass a law in the Legislature to protect victims of human trafficking in Wyoming,” he says. “Wyoming didn’t have any criminal statute on human trafficking, so our student organization got to work with some policy experts from Polaris Project and the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, along with state Rep. Cathy Connolly, to campaign for a state law, and it passed. It’s actually already being used in a couple cases in Jackson, Wyo.”
While many may not realize human trafficking is an issue in Wyoming, De Cecco says it’s a problem throughout the country, and the interstates crossing through Wyoming make the state vulnerable. “I actually met a survivor of sex trafficking from Wyoming and got to hear her story and become good friends with her,” he says. “This is happening everywhere.”
Double-majoring in business economics and international studies, De Cecco says his volunteer work has become his life’s passion. “It’s shaped my career path,” he says. “I’m applying for an internship with the International Justice Mission to hopefully work in D.C., then in one of their field offices where they do case-work on these issues. I definitely am interested in this field … specifically working with countries where their justice systems are really faltering, and they’re not protecting victims of crimes. IJM has a very successful model of working with governments to improve justice systems and to protect the poor from violence.”
De Cecco believes his time at UW has prepared him well for the next chapter in his life. “In addition to my volunteering and human rights work, UW has given me innumerable opportunities on campus to engage culturally,” he says. “I’ve had the opportunity to build relationships with so many people from different countries that are represented here at UW. That cross-cultural communication has been so valuable to me. Being a student at UW provided me with the chance to study abroad at the University of Costa Rica, as well as to go on a couple trips with Chi Alpha Campus Ministries to build relationships with local university students in Mexico and Costa Rica.
“Understanding our world from the perspective that people are different but that we share so many of the same values—that has been very important to me.”
He’s also appreciated the variety of coursework he’s been exposed to and urges students to take classes outside their majors. “By learning from so many different disciplines and studying a foreign language at the same time, the university has taught me to be a well-rounded person and taught me the beauty of learning. I’ve especially loved being a part of the UW Singing Statesmen, where I get to share my passion for making music with more than 70 men who are students here.”
One of the 10 Cowboy Ethics adopted by UW is“Do what has to be done.” Student Daniel De Cecco learned about human trafficking and knew something had to be done—from a state law on to a career path devoted to helping protect victims.