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Gifts of Grace Founder Uses MBA to Save Children

April 17, 2020
man talking to another man while someone else uses a video recorder
Tyler Schwab (Photo courtesy of Tyler Schwab)

At 19, Tyler Schwab was introduced to a world of horrors he had no contact with or awareness of growing up in Afton, Wyo. Today, Schwab is using the skills and knowledge he is gaining as a University of Wyoming graduate student to aid the victims of those horrors.

Abroad in the Dominican Republic, Schwab discovered a world of children who are prostituted, instigated mainly by American and European men visiting the Caribbean nation.

“Seeing that really disturbed me, and I wanted to know what was going on,” Schwab says. “That led me to research human trafficking and modern-day slavery. I learned that there were more slaves in 2013 than at any time in the history of humankind.”

He spent more time in the Dominican Republic, talking to survivors and victims, learning about their situations and struggles. Eventually, this research led him to found a nonprofit organization, Gifts of Grace, aimed at helping rescued children get their lives back on track. The nonprofit connected survivors with therapists, vocational training and other support networks.

Schwab ran the organization until it started bringing in steady though modest funding. At that point, he wasn’t needed as much on the ground.

“I had some good people in place, and I knew I wanted to finish my schooling,” Schwab says. “That’s when I came back to the states.”

He enrolled at BYU-Idaho as a 23-year-old freshman and earned a bachelor’s in health care administration. Then he came to UW and began working toward a master’s in business administration. That’s when Operation Underground Railroad approached him.

“I was grateful to get a little of my MBA done at the University of Wyoming, but when this larger nonprofit approached, it was my dream job,” Schwab says. “I couldn’t turn it down.”

Operation Underground Railroad aims to empower law enforcement to rescue children around the world, including in the United States, from situations like the one Schwab first observed years ago.

“Whenever someone is rescued from one of those operations, my job is to either help them get back home to their families or get them into a place of healing if their families are not a safe place or nonexistent,” Schwab says. “We give them access to different resources like vocational training or education.”

The job usually takes Schwab out of the country for two weeks a month, so he has had to reduce his course load at home. But Schwab is still working toward the MBA, which he says is the ideal background for the work he does.

The wider repertoire of knowledge Schwab is gaining at UW includes accounting, management, leadership and other skills.

“In a for-profit setting, it helps with the bottom line. It helps with employee morale,” Schwab says. “And in our setting—the nonprofit setting—it helps to keep us afloat and helps us to continue to rescue the enslaved children across the world.”

Schwab continues to work for Operation Underground Railroad. Gifts of Grace is still active, continuing the mission he founded it to serve.

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