SMU’s Sophia Brinkley Will Leave a Lasting Legacy in the Fight Against Human Trafficking

Sophia Brinkley attended Highland Park schools through middle school and then finished high school at a private Catholic girls school in Houston. It was there in Houston when Sophia first heard about human trafficking.

“At first, I didn’t really understand how serious the issue was or how big of an issue it is,” said Sophia. “People weren’t really talking about human trafficking.  In the type of communities that I grew up in, both in Highland Park and in Houston, it’s hard not to tune out things.”

She returned to Dallas to attend SMU and discovered that others, too, were unaware of the issue. When Sophia chose the subject of human trafficking as her Freshman year English writing project, she was surprised that she was the only one out of a class of 25 that even knew what it was.

The Red Sand Project

Part of the requirement as part of her participation in Lead@SMU through the Hilltop Scholars program was to put on one service event, so she decided to do an event that would build awareness about human trafficking. The Red Sand Project was a participatory art installation event where students place red sand in the cracks of the sidewalks around the campus to bring awareness to those that have fallen through the cracks of society due to trafficking.

making a difference sophia brinkley

“The goal is to bring people together, build awareness, and encourage them to ask questions about it,” Sophia said.

But she sought to leave a more lasting impact than one single event and that led to her introduction to Dr. Brad Klein who helps head up the SMU Human Rights Program, who encouraged her to build a course of action, mission, and purpose to support the cause. Dr. Klein is proud to report more than 200 students currently pursuing human rights majors or minors at SMU, including Sophia. Sophia rose as a leader of SMU’s Human Rights Student Council, spearheading the Student Alliance Against Human Trafficking and establishing the Red Sand Project as an annual event hosted by the Alliance.

Sophia is looking forward to taking Dr. Klein’s Ethics class this summer and finishing up her major in Human Rights as she enters her senior year at SMU next fall. She also aspires to participate in some of the travel events offered by SMU’s Human Rights Program. Dr. Klein and other SMU professors had led trips to 27 countries for students and anyone interested in building bridges among people and places.  A cornerstone travel experience is the Holocaust Poland trip that occurs every December.

“My goal is for the Human Rights Council and the Student Alliance Against Human Trafficking to have a reach even beyond the campus.  We hope to engage members of the surrounding Park Cities community and get young people involved and aware of the need to protect human rights even at the middle school and high school level,” Sophia said.  She encourages anyone interested in learning more about how they could get involved in the Human Trafficking Alliance or for information on other programs, travel events, or Human Rights majors at SMU, to visit or contact Dr. Brad Klein at

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