Mary Ninneman has seen the faces of human trafficking.

After her freshman year at Notre Dame, Ninneman, now a senior history and political science student, traveled to Thailand through Air Force ROTC to work with that nation’s military in rural areas. But that’s not what affected her most: It was the orphanage filled with kids, teenagers, toddlers and babies who were trafficking victims or were at risk of being trafficked.

Ninneman, a graduate of Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha, said that even though she didn’t speak their language, she understood their smiles.

“You look in the face of a child, and it’s the picture of innocence,” Ninneman said. “It didn’t make sense that any child would want to grow up this way.”

That experience — along with an internship with Sen. Ben Sasse, a trip to Greece and a class on human trafficking in Africa — pushed Ninneman to look deeper at human trafficking at home.

She decided to write her thesis, “Hidden Human Trafficking in the Heartland,” for the Glynn Family Honors Program at Notre Dame to “explore the history of Nebraska’s current laws, past resolutions, enforcement strategies and educational programming.” Read Article.