Sanjana Akula, a senior at Biotechnology High School in Freehold, New Jersey, organized an attempt to break the Guinness World record of “most arm-linked people to stand up simultaneously” to raise awareness for sex trafficking in the United States.
Akula’s anti-trafficking organization, Rakshana, partnered with Marlboro’s Teen Advisory Committee to host the event at the Marlboro Recreation Center. Approximately 172 participants from across Monmouth County attended and ultimately, 146 worked together to break the record.
“It was a lot of hard work and a lot of late nights, staying up until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., but it was worth it. I think we all had a lot of fun and, more importantly, 172 people left knowing a little bit more about trafficking. It’s important that we realize that human trafficking isn’t a problem that is isolated to third world countries. It’s right here in our own state and in our own country,” said Akula. “I’ve been working to fight trafficking for over two years now and, for the longest time, I believed that awareness campaigns didn’t do much to help most causes, but this is one of the few areas where awareness is integral to solving the issue.”
Akula says, per Guinness rules, independent witnesses verified the attempt as successful and it will be confirmed in the coming months by Guinness. The event was inspired by news of a sex trafficking bust called Operation Cross Country XI, a nationwide effort focusing on underage human trafficking that ran from October 12-15, 2017.
“Most people that came assumed that it would be easy to break this record. Really, it took almost an hour to get all 172 people up! To be able to get up together, we needed to be cognizant of those who couldn’t get up by themselves and actively adjust to help them get up without breaking the chain,” said Akula.
“When you feel passionately about anything in life, pursue it. It makes you a better person. It gives you a purpose and something to work towards,” said Larry Rosen, Deputy Mayor of Marlboro and adult coordinator of the Marlboro Teen Advisory Committee, of Akula’s efforts.
“Trying to stand up was so much harder than I thought it would be. When I first arrived, I thought this was just an silly record the town was trying to break, but after hearing Sanjana speak, I realized I was part of something bigger than myself, and I was helping fight one of the greatest threats to young women today,” said Dennis Abate and Colts Neck High School junior.
“I wanted to see Sanjana reach her goal, although it was harder than I thought. Who knew standing together could be so hard?!” said Cleo Hendrickson, director of volunteering, Jersey Shore Red Cross.