Brittany Partridge ('12) | Political Science
Senior from Annandale, Minn.
Brittany Partridge had traveled to Romania, Israel and Sierra Leone, but not until she came to Abilene, Texas, did she – with the help of ACU’s generous donors – begin truly changing the world.
The senior political science major from Annandale, Minn., is a cofounder of the Red Thread Movement, which has sprung up across the country and around the world as a way to raise awareness about modern-day slavery and to rescue and protect Nepalese girls from sex trafficking.
“Red Thread probably could not have happened on another campus,” she says. “The environment and opportunities at ACU made it possible for the movement to begin here.”
What brought Brittany to Abilene and set her on a journey to help sex-trafficking victims in Southeast Asia was not where she went but whom she met.
First, as a sophomore, one of her fellow travelers on a mission trip mentioned she would be attending ACU. Later, when Brittany began looking at colleges, she remembered the name and submitted an application.
“I loved the campus when I got here,” she said. “I remember telling my dad when I saw it, ‘I’m going to go here.’”
Then, just before her senior year of high school, Brittany visited a Romanian safe house for victims of sex trafficking. She was the same age as many of the residents to whom she ministered.
“That was the first time I’d heard of trafficking or the idea of modern-day slavery,” she said. “I was shocked. I had seen things that had been emotionally difficult on previous trips, but this time I had a feeling I would be working with this subject again."
Seeking to raise awareness about a problem that had received little publicity at the time, Brittany considered journalism before moving to political science, interested in possibly becoming a lawyer. Receiving three scholarships her freshman year helped smooth the way to attending ACU.
Then she met her freshman roommate, Samantha Sutherland, and the pair began volunteering with Eternal Threads, an Abilene nonprofit that sells products made by women in developing nations who without the income provided by the sales would be at risk for exploitation.
“I don’t think they knew who I was,” Brittany said of her volunteer efforts. “I was just coming in the back door, unloading boxes.”
As Brittany, Samantha and another friend and ACU student, Amanda McVey, unloaded boxes of bracelets, Amanda suggested selling friendship bracelets; Brittany took the idea a step further, suggesting they do so to raise awareness about trafficking and provide additional income for the Nepalese women making them. As the friends discussed it and collaborated with Eternal Threads, the vision grew.
“I think it was definitely inspired,” Brittany said.
Using her contacts with students on other campuses, Brittany helped spread the word nationwide, selling red bracelets for $3 each to help provide incomes for the girls and women making them and fund anti-trafficking efforts.
“It was not an encounter with a specific victim that started it,” Brittany said. “That connection keeps me going, but it was more the recognition that there is an injustice happening that few are addressing.”
Brittany, scheduled to graduate in December 2012, still plans to attend law school or some other graduate program with an ultimate goal of working for the U.S. government in anti-trafficking activity – either as a lawyer for the Department of Defense or a foreign service officer for the State Department.
In the summer of 2012, she interned with the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, using connections she made through the ACU Career Center.
Brittany had time to help start the Red Thread Movement thanks to the generosity of ACU’s alumni and friends, whose donations provided four scholarships that defrayed much of Brittany’s tuition and freed her to work on a project that has provided no income among its great rewards.
“I am so grateful to be able to come to school and have the opportunity to do something like Red Thread,” she said. “Giving is really a selfless act because donors have no idea who I am or what I will do with the gift they’ve given me.”
ACU’s donors don’t just give to ACU; they give through ACU, ultimately helping people like the Nepalese women rescued through the efforts of the Red Thread Movement.
“You’re supporting them financially while I’m supporting them physically,” Brittany said of the donors who helped to fund her scholarships. “When you bring together a lot of people with different means, anything is possible.”