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Like many her age, 20 year-old Larson came to college with the hopes of branching out of her hometown, Aledo, Texas. Despite an attachment to her friends and family back home and some life-altering medical problems, Larson decided that New York University was where she needed to bee to be happy and to go after her career goals.

Sitting atop her ruffled white duvet cover in her dorm, Larson discussed her escape from her close-minded hometown, and her goal of working on policy change for human trafficking.

So what led you to leave your small town to come to New York?

Before moving to Texas for my dad’s residency, my entire family lived in New York, so they raised me with more of an open, New York mindset. The people in my hometown (Aledo) could be racist and homophobic. There were a lot of opinions I didn’t agree with, so I thought I needed to broaden my horizons a bit.

Did your career goals come into play when you were deciding whether to come to New York University?

Eventually, I hope to work on policy change through a non-profit that fights human trafficking, so either New York, or Washington would be the perfect place for that.

What “real world” experience have you had in the field up to this point?

Over the summer I worked for a nonprofit in Texas called Traffick 911. My job was to visit juvenile detention centers and chat with girls. When we noticed any signs of trafficking we would see if we could get them to admit to it. If they did, they’d be extracted from the detention center and put in a safe house.

What was it like to be working one on one with girls in those situations?

It was horrifying. These girls are just like us, but they were unlucky. It’s purely what you’re born into. While we were worrying about what we would wear on our date on Friday nights, this 16 year-old girl was worrying about bringing home $500 every night, so that her 32-year-old boyfriend wouldn’t beat her or would give her food and the drugs he had gotten her addicted to.

Does it ever take a toll on you?

Every now and then I get really depressed over all of this and throw myself completely into it. I have to step back and remember that I am a person who has friends and family who love and depend on me to stay healthy and sane.

How has being away from your friends and family been?

It’s been hard. I’ve had the same three best friends since I was three years old. They are my family and my support. I don’t think I could sustain my drive to work in such a heartbreaking field of work without them.

Do you think if you went back to your hometown, you would be able to make the people care about what you are advocating for?

I think so. When it comes down to it, everyone is just a person. I think understanding is a major part of any kind of movement. If you can get someone to understand what you’re advocating for, they might open their minds and detach themselves from some of the hateful ideas they’ve been raised with.

By KIRA HARADA-STONE