THERESA FLORES '07

Theresa Flores is a vocal advocate for victims of human trafficking, educating others about this modern-day slavery and bringing about legislation and grassroots action to stop it.

Christian Service Award 2013

For living out the Marianist ideals in today's society

The Christian Service Award is presented to alumni of the University whose life’s work best reflects the unique quality of service and sacrifice to others, consistent with the Marianist’s identity of the University of Dayton.

It is given to alumni who have devoted their life in service to others, who affirms the fullness and complexity of human existence, who appreciates social justice and who brings about changes that make it more possible to live the Marianist ideal in contemporary society.

This award celebrates the rare alumnus whose life is devoted to extraordinary self sacrifice for the benefit of others. To be eligible a person must be a graduate of the University of Dayton with an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree. The Alumni Board anticipates that this award will only be given when, from the pool of nominations for alumni awards, an individual clearly meets the criteria for the award. Unless there is a compelling reason to warrant an exception, only one award will be presented in any given year.

Theresa Flores '07
Master of Science, Counseling Education

As a teenager, Theresa Flores was made a slave — first raped, then threatened with her life and her reputation if she failed to comply with the demands of the sex traffickers who oppressed her. Today, she is a vocal advocate for victims of human trafficking, educating others about this modern-day slavery and bringing about legislation and grassroots action to stop it.

Flores, who earned a master’s in human services from UD in 2007, has raised awareness about a subject that society is uncomfortable acknowledging. In 2008, she started the nonprofit Gracehaven House to find and free girls enslaved in child sex trafficking. She was appointed to the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission in 2009 and has testified before the Ohio House and Senate in support of human trafficking legislation. Her outreach program, SOAP (Save our Adolescents from Prostitution), mobilizes volunteers in cities with major conventions and high-profile sports events to distribute the national trafficking hotline on bars of soaps in hotels.

Phil Cenedella ’84, executive director of the National Association of Human Trafficking Victim Advocates, met Flores four years ago as part of his search for a conference keynote speaker.

“When I called her to be involved, I did not know that I was about to meet a true angel living right here in Ohio,” he said. “One of the many things that impresses me about Theresa is her ability to share her painful story with complete strangers, almost daily, not for fortune, fame or ego, but simply to help others in dire need. If the Christian Service Award is meant for an alum who leads the life Christ asked us all to lead, then there is truly not a better recipient than Theresa Flores.”