Lani Frazer, St. Vincent de Paul

By CATHY BUSSEWITZ
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Lani Frazer argues that it would be a good idea to dismantle the entire transportation system, and to take a good look at capitalism while we’re at it.

But that’s just what she argues on the debate team.

Her real goal is to make an impact on the world, whether it’s through actions that are large or small.

This year, the senior at St. Vincent de Paul High School channeled that energy into leading the Women’s Issues Club, which she started after watching the documentary “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

“That was just a real eye-opener,” Frazer said. “The documentary takes us to different countries and shows us all these appalling issues. There’s human trafficking, and there’s forced prostitution, and lack of access to medical care, and all these things American high schoolers don’t have to think about.”

Frazer started the club with the goal of educating people about the issues women face around the world. For Human Trafficking Awareness Month she brought in Elaine Sanchez, from the Sisters of the Holy Family in Fremont, to talk about the human trafficking that takes place in the Bay Area, including Rohnert Park.

“It was really shocking to a lot of people how close to home human trafficking really is,” Frazer said.

The club receives a lot of criticism in the school, because it’s in a conservative Catholic diocese, Frazer said.

“I was told when I started the club to be careful,” she said. “Don’t catch the attention of people who might be skeptical. That was really shocking to me, because these are really important issues.”

Frazer counters criticism with concrete examples of what the group has done, like collecting 450 school supplies in a drive for students in Thailand. A club member will deliver those supplies when she makes a trip there this summer.

“She’s stepped into the role of the president of the Women’s Issues Club with grace and dignity and passion,” said Anamarie Hogue, one of Frazer’s teachers. “She’s articulate … on difficult issues like human trafficking, pregnancy, really uncomfortable issues, but the way she addresses it is so mature. She does it with a lot of respect.”

Frazer’s speaking skills undoubtedly were sharpened on the debate team, where she spends nearly every weekend competing in tournaments that have taken her around the country. That busy schedule, which involves doing homework on planes, has taught her about time management and focus.

Beauty pageants also involve a lot more public speaking than most people think, said the winner of the Miss Santa Rosa crown in 2011. That broad range of skills will undoubtedly help Frazer in the future, when she pursues either politics, journalism or nonprofit work.

“I’m not sure exactly what direction I want to go in yet,” Frazer said. “Starting this club really inspired me to do something to change the world, even if it’s a small thing.”

LANI FRAZER

Age: 17

Birthplace: Healdsburg

Lives with: Parents Alan and Noriko

What’s in her iPod: Almost everything

Favorite hobby: horseback riding

Dream job: I’m still trying to decide

Favorite TV show: Anything on the Food Network

Favorite food: Thai food

Quote: “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” — Albert Einstein