Sex trafficking victim overcomes addiction, graduates from ASU
Phoenix (KPHO) -- About 10,000 ASU undergraduate students earned their diplomas this week, and one of those students is not only the first person in her family to earn a college degree, but she's done so after living on the streets of Phoenix.
"I was just wanting to make it through the next day, or on most days, not make it to the next day," said Savannah Sanders.
Ten years ago, if you had told Sanders she would be walking on stage accepting a diploma in front of family and friends - she wouldn't have believed you.
"I was addicted to drugs. I wound up being trafficked. I was homeless. I just had a lot of things I was up against," Sanders said. She said when she was 16, she met a sex trafficker.
"They had me for about nine months before I got out of the situation," Sanders said.
After regaining her freedom, Sanders says she slowly gained the confidence she needed to get her GED and enroll in college. With four kids and two jobs, she's turned her life around, and after earning a degree in social work, she plans to help others do the same.
"For me, it's just a life that I lived, and now I live this life and it all seems normal," Sanders said.
"You will not be a millionaire, but you do feel very satisfied about the work that you do," said ASU professor and social worker Dominique Roe-Sepowitz. She said with the area's children, immigrant and retirement populations, the state needs people like Sanders now more than ever.
"We have huge communities that need to be served by social workers so there's not a dearth for social work in Arizona," Roe-Sepowitz said.
"That's why I do what I do," Sanders said. "I don't share my story for recognition; I share it to give other people the courage to share theirs."
She now plans to get her master's degree with her sights set on ultimately earning a doctorate.