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2024 Gillen-Massey Award Nominations

February 8, 2024

The John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy and A Voice in the Wilderness Empowerment Center are accepting nominations for the 2024 Gillen-Massey Award  through January 19, 2024

The Gillen-Massey Award, annually held on February 8th,was established by A Voice in the Wilderness Empowerment Center in 2022 with the inaugural Award presented to Dr. Roza Pati, Founding Director of the John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy of St. Thomas University Benjamin L. Crump College of Law. Since that time, A Voice in the Wilderness Empowerment Center and the John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy of St. Thomas University Benjamin L. Crump College of Law annually receive nominations for deserving journalists, survivors, educators, service providers, and advocates combatting human trafficking throughout the world in honor and remembrance of the Award’s namesakes: Michele Gillen and Kyla Massey.

“Michele Gillen was a larger-than-life personality, a formidable journalist who put her sharp wisdom and unbound passion into exploring a hidden problem in our own backyard at a time when no one else did. I deeply treasure having partnered with her since the early 2000s. Kyla Massey was everyone’s daughter, sister, friend exploited in an industry that commodifies human beings – a ruthless and pervasive phenomenon that should shock the conscience of everyone. She is an angel who we can never forget,” said Dr. Roza Pati, Founding Director of the John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy.

The Award recipient will be announced at the Gillen-Massey Award Luncheon at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida, on February 2024 (details of program forthcoming).

Nomination Process:

To nominate a candidate for the 2024 Gillen-Massey Award, please submit the following as a Word or PDF attachment via email to humantrafficking@stu.edu by January 19, 2024, at 11:59 p.m.:

  • A cover letter addressing the nominee’s award criteria;
  • The nominee’s resume (including their full name, address, email, and phone number); and
  • Any other supporting documentation for the selection committee’s consideration.

Award Criteria:

Nominees for the Gillen-Massey Award may include journalists, survivors, educators, service providers, and advocates in the faith-based, public, private, nonprofit sectors, and beyond.  Qualities of a strong nominee for the Gillen-Massey Award may include the following:

  • Demonstrates a history of significant activities and dedication against human trafficking on the local, national, or international level.
  • Raises awareness on substantial issues related to trafficking in persons through investigative reporting or other journalistic efforts.
  • Champions efforts against human trafficking through work in the trenches that reach the most vulnerable and those on the fringes of society in unique ways.
  • Increases the body of knowledge against human trafficking through research and scholarship or develops training or educational initiatives on the issue of trafficking in human beings.
  • Inspires the faith-based community to collaborate and rise to action to combat trafficking in persons and support survivors as they rebuild their lives.
  • Pioneers advocacy, policies, procedures, or other activities that improve the lives of victims and survivors of human trafficking and the systems that impact their well-being and integral human development.

Past Recipients of Gillen-Massey Award:

2023 Award Recipients

The Honorable Kwami Adoboe-Herrera

Member, U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking
U.S. Department of State
Washington, D.C.

Noy Thrupkaew

Fellow, Type Investigations
Director, Ida B. Wells Fellowship Program
New York, NY


2022 Award Recipient


Professor Dr. Roza Pati

St. John Paul II Distinguished Professor of Law
Founder and Director, The John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy
Director, LL.M/ J.S.D Program in Intercultural Human Rights
St. Thomas University Benjamin L. Crump College of Law
Member, Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, The Vatican


Read Bio



About Michele Gillen and Kyla Massey:

Michele Gillen was a celebrated investigative news journalist and South Florida television news anchor whose notable career won her 39 National Academy of Television Arts and Science (NATAS) Regional Emmy awards, the Columbia DuPont Silver Baton, the Edward R. Murrow Award for Investigative Reporting and three Green Eyeshade Awards. She has been honored by the Foundation of American Women in Radio and Television, including being chosen as the television journalist whose investigations most benefited and helped change the lives of American women. Ms. Gillen had traveled the world to expose and bring unique perspective to critical stories and newsmakers of our time. Her work has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The O’Reilly Factor on Fox, and The Huffington Post. She was well-known for her investigation “Invisible Chains” –  an expose into human trafficking and modern day slavery in America and across the globe. In cooperation with St. Thomas University and Dr. Roza Pati, a first of its kind international conference in South Florida to fight human trafficking was held at St. Thomas University College of Law in 2004. This partnership continued for many years. Ms. Gillen produced the award-winning short documentary, Trapped: Lessons from the Trenches, which featured Kyla Massey’s story.  It received a local Emmy in 2017 in the category of Societal Concerns – News.  The film exposed the raw but intimate face of the hidden world of human trafficking including its nexus with mental illness, drug addiction, foster care, and suicide.  Trapped also illuminated a path towards hope and featured the John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy. Ms. Gillen passed away in June 2021 and continues to be remembered for her prolific investigative journalism, passion for the truth, and as a champion of the vulnerable and exploited.

Kyla Massey was a survivor of human trafficking in Florida who used her experiences and voice to help other victims.  She bravely and selflessly shared her raw story with the world.  Ms. Massey once said that even if things did not change for her, she wanted to use her voice to help others above all else. She was a mother of two daughters and a son whom she loved greatly. She passed away in July 2020 at the age of 30, but her voice, story, and legacy continue to educate and inspire others.


To learn more about Michele Gillen and Kyla Massey, watch TRAPPED below.

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this video are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of The John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy or St. Thomas University.

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February 8, 2024
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