Sierra Academy of Style raises funds for human trafficking groups

From left, Xquisite Executive Director Brenda Sandquist stands with Sierra Academy of Style student council members Casey, Kaylyn, Stella and Madisyn and SAS owner Anthony Gayner on June 10. The academy will host a fashion show fundraiser to support Carson City’s Xquisite and Reno’s Awaken nonprofit to raise awareness about human trafficking.

From left, Xquisite Executive Director Brenda Sandquist stands with Sierra Academy of Style student council members Casey, Kaylyn, Stella and Madisyn and SAS owner Anthony Gayner on June 10. The academy will host a fashion show fundraiser to support Carson City’s Xquisite and Reno’s Awaken nonprofit to raise awareness about human trafficking. Photo by Jessica Garcia.

The Sierra Academy of Style is hosting a fashion show fundraiser June 25 to benefit faith-based organizations Xquisite and Awaken, both of which provide awareness about human trafficking awareness in Reno and Carson City.
SAS still seeks donors and participants for its event, “A Musical Fundraiser,” in which the school’s students have selected various genres of movies that previously were musicals and will model in full hair and makeup with clothes donated by Plato’s Closet at the Sierra Academy’s location at 1851 S. Roop St., number 100.
“We’re going to have 40 to 50 student models working the runway to earn money for Xquisite and Awaken,” owner Anthony Gayner said.
Tickets are on sale for $50 a chair up to $200 for super VIP tables placed on the runway, providing the best view of the models. VIP tables just off the runway are $37.50 per chair or $150 for the table. Regular seats are $15. VIP seats will receive one or two glasses of wine so no one gets overserved at a company event, Gayner said.
“There are a lot of great businesses in Carson or Minden who have stepped up, even though they’re not going to attend, but they wrote checks,” Gayner said. “We’ve had a lot of people say, ‘We’ll donate the table, we’ll buy the table,’ and we’ll put their name on it as a ‘thank you.’”
Gayner said the academy’s student council is striving to host two fashion shows a year as a community service effort.
“We want to be that pillar, and in the last five years, we’re finally getting to where we can be that,” he said. “This was a student council vote where we can work with Xquisite, a sex trafficking organization, and they weren’t getting enough publicity.”
Xquisite’s Diamond Strong Freedom Center at 310 N. Stewart St., held an open house event in April and provides a new facility for men, women and youth who have been sex trafficked and are in need of counseling or respite, said Brenda Sandquist, executive director and founder.
Advocates provide resources in a peaceful, safe atmosphere and work with Carson City’s CIRCLES initiative on Xquisite’s campus to connect victims with support groups, personal care items, legal advocacy or other needs after they’ve experienced exploitation or trauma. As of this month, Xquisite provides 11 trained advocates with nine part-time paid employees joining its staff next month, she said. The state requires 20 hours of advocacy training, and the office will provide that for free, and there are approximately seven attending the new training.
Sandquist said in interviewing victims or family members, she constantly hears human trafficking begins as early as 3 years old for children, and it occurs frequently for 5- to 8-year-olds.
“When you’re being exploited and exposed to things that you shouldn’t as a child that young, you become vulnerable then to people who will take advantage of you,” she said. “Traffickers and even family members will exploit you because you’ve had that negative experience starting out the gate.
“And even a few students went, ‘Yeah, that’s me,’ and so they’re trying to better themselves and it gave them a, ‘I’m not alone,’” she said. “And they don’t have to keep that secret anymore. You can obviously protect your secret, but you don’t have to live in silence and all alone. There’s people here to help you.”
“Just coming in and doing things makes people aware, and more people want to be involved,” Sandquist said. “I can’t do it alone and even Xquisite can’t do it alone. It takes a community to change the atmosphere. Let’s train up our young boys not to be exploitive.”
Gayner said the ripple effect on his students even before the event has taken place stirred up a positive influence in ways he didn’t expect.
“They’re starting to understand it’s not just a fashion show – hair, skin, nails and walking down a runway – but what they’re doing could be saving a life, changing a life,” Gayner said. “And it became real to them. Now it’s kind of tangible. … I can’t quantify how big it is and what it’s already done for our people here.”
The student council, consisting of members voted in by peers from each of the curriculums Gayner and his wife Brandy Gayner provide through their school, meet twice a week and have been working diligently on the event. They’re earning their own tickets for selling event tickets, and whoever wins the most at the end will receive a $300 television Gayner has purchased to motivate them.
Gayner said this will be his academy’s second event after hosting a fundraiser in January, and he hopes the community will provide greater support this time around. His goal is to raise at least $10,000.
To purchase tickets or for information, call 775-885-7417, e-mail sascarsoncity@gmail.com or stop in at SAS. Credit card purchases will be accepted over the phone, but Gayner said the preferred method, especially for table purchases, is to stop by SAS on Roop Street.

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