2015 Young Hearts Matter Award Winners
Activist of the Year
This award recognizes a youth ally who is an activist in their community or school, a leader among their peers, and has done outstanding work to spread awareness and prevent dating and sexual violence.
Nicole Gray, Focusing Families, Hempstead, TX
Nicole is currently interning at Focusing Families in Hempstead, TX. There she helps facilitate healthy relationships sessions to her peer groups at Hempstead Middle School. She passionately stands before groups of students and helps lead conversations that will end violence in communities. A survivor herself, Nicole has never let that define her. Instead, she has used her process of healing to find her voice to stop all forms of violence to her generation. Additionally, Nicole has helped Focusing Families start becoming more youth focused, once again giving voice to her generation.
Advocate of the Year
This award recognizes an adult ally who partners with young people, is a leader for violence prevention in their community, and has made prevention programming more accessible as a result of their efforts.
Sarah Ambrus, C-Squared, Leander, TX
Sarah Ambrus is a special education teacher for Leander ISD and one of the original co-sponsors of C-Squared. C-Squared, or Coalition of Clubs, started in 2010 where students joined together to encourage a culture of kindness on their campus. Sarah and co-author, Christine Simpson, chronicled the collaborative models, practical tools, and firsthand accounts from students, parents and teachers who worked together to positively influence their campus in their book, “Riding Shotgun: Empowering Students to Lead Change.” From these beginnings, the C-Squared movement has grown and spread to 33 elementary, middle, and high schools across Leander ISD, most of whom were designated No Place for Hate campuses by the Anti-Defamation League in 2014. Much of this growth can be attributed to the support Sarah offers during her free C-Squared sponsor trainings.
Activist of the Year Nominees
Xavier Thompson, United Voices 4 Change, Ft. Worth, TX
Xavier Thompson is the President of United Voices 4 Change, a unified body of student leaders from campuses across Ft. Worth ISD. The mission of UV4C is to address common concerns, provide service to their community, and teach positive qualities to help create problem free communities. The UV4C elects its own representatives from each school, including the group’s officers. Each year the UV4C hosts a youth retreat to help train the new teams of students on their mission, and plan events they want to see happen in their school. Xavier plays a key role in planning this retreat and is responsible for submitting the group’s agendas to the Ft.WISD school board and superintendent. Last spring, Xavier was chosen to do a local TEDx talk on INOK, or It’s Not Okay, a campaign started by the UV4C to talk about making respect the social norm in their communities. This is Xavier’s 3rd year in UV4C and he is truly a great young man with a heart to make a difference in the world.
Zara Hassan, Be Project, Dallas, TX
Zara was a part of The Family Place Be Project leadership group in her school, Turner High School, for two years before graduating in 2012. During that time, she served as a leader and role model to her peers by implementing awareness activities on her campus. After graduating, Zara stayed connected to The Family Place Be Project. Last summer she volunteered with Be Project staff and helped present workshops on empathy and bullying to kids at a summer camp. Zara has been an amazing leader at the Be Project.
Advocate of the Year Nominees
Jeff Temple, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX
Jeff Temple is a professional who has dedicated his career advocating for healthy teen relationships. He wears many hats, one of which is an associate professor for the department of obstetrics and gynecology at UTMB – Galveston. Dr. Temple is also the Director of Behavioral Health and Research where he dedicates much of his research to adolescent behavior, sexual health, and teen dating violence. In 2013, Dr. Temple published a study on the Need for School-Based Teen Dating Violence Prevention programs. He currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Task Force for DV HB2620, which aims to inform the Texas Legislator about appropriate domestic violence interventions and improvements to responses, and as a Board of Trustees of Galveston ISD.
Amy Miller, St. Thomas Aquinas, Dallas, TX
In addition to being the school counselor at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School, Amy Miller goes above and beyond to make sure that each student on the upper school campus receives messages about empathy and healthy relationships in an effort to create a kind and bully-free STA through her partnership with the Be Project. This is not an easy task as STA is the largest Catholic Pk-8th grade school in Texas! Be Project is a program that empowers youth to be a part of the solution to end relationship violence and has been implemented at STA for the past three years. Amy has made it her personal responsibility to assist Be Project staff with facilitating the Be Project program on campus and currently oversees the Be More leadership group, a group of student leaders who organize awareness events on campus. This year Amy has helped Be More students organize and implement a secret school-wide flash dance during Bullying Awareness Month in October and the group continues to plan events for the spring semester! Amy is a true ally who has helped to give space to young people’s voices in her school community.