BY JURRY TAALIB-DEEN
Journal Staff Writer
One of the last orders of outgoing President, Barack Obama entailed rewarding, only 20 individuals throughout the country, with the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award. EleSondra DeRomano, founder of Standing Together Against Real Slavery, STARS, which is an organization dedicated to supporting women who were sold into human trafficking, was one of those individuals.
In order to be considered for the prestigious award, individuals must first, be nominated, and have completed 4000 hours of volunteer service in that particular field.
“It felt really good to have my work recognized by President Obama,” Ms. DeRomano, who is known as, El, told The Toledo Journal.
But El’s motivation in the field began long before receiving the award. Her motivation started at the age of 12, after escaping the dark world of human trafficking.
While growing up in Grand Rapid, Michigan, El’s father was a well-known drug lord known throughout the city, as well as the country, she said. One day, he shot and killed two men who disrespected El’s mother. Her father went to prison for the crime. During his incarceration, El was kidnapped by the families, of the two men her father killed, at age 11, and forced into sex slavery.
It wasn’t until, one of her “tricks,” a term used to describe men who pay for sex, was about to have sex with El, when she told him she was only 12, and pleaded for his help. The man did get the police, and she was freed from her captures.
The world of human trafficking still followed her when, at 18, she shot two men who were trying to force her back into that world; in which, she spent 10 years in prison for the act.
Currently, El continues her fight against ending human trafficking. She works with state lawmakers such as, Senator Theresa Fedor, and nightly, she goes out on the streets counseling girls, and women, who are victims of human trafficking, and even buying them meals, with gifts, from supporters of her work.
In her fight, she thanks the Unity United Methodist Church, 1910 East Broadway, with helping her fight against human trafficking.
El has a 24 hour crisis line for anyone involved or knows of someone involved in human trafficking. She can be reached at 419-280-2451.