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2017 Young Hearts Matter Awards

Young Hearts Matter, a Texas campaign to prevent dating abuse, kicks off Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month at the Capital today. Hosted by TCFV & TAP, the event brings together youth from across the state, including the Young Hearts Matter Leadership Board who exist to build capacity, motivation, and opportunities for young leaders to promote healthy relationships in Texas. The event also recognizes key leaders from across the state who have inspired and led efforts in their own communities to promote healthy relationships among youth.

2017 Young Hearts Matter Award Winners


Activist of the Year

Zoe writing on board Zoe2

This award recognizes a young person who has been a driving force for social change among their peers and has done significant work to promote awareness and prevention of dating abuse in their community or school.

Zoe Arora, the Young Hearts Matter Activist of the Year, is a 15 year old sophomore at Lake Travis High School. She’s being recognized for her work with the Texas Advocacy Project’s (TAP) Teen Ambassadors of Hope Program. TAP provides FREE legal services to victims of domestic & dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. They select 20-25 student leaders for the Ambassadors of Hope program to help champion their work, promote awareness of dating violence and healthy relationships, and raise funds for the program. In addition to learning about healthy relationships, ambassadors also receive training on leadership, marketing, and branding as part of their participation.

In 2016, Zoe received the Teen Ambassador of Hope of the Year for her ability to not only raise funds for the agency, but create a widespread campaign that raised awareness about dating abuse in her community.  “Zoe’s drive and passion was evident throughout her entire fund raising campaign. Zoe went above and beyond to create an unforgettable fundraiser- a combination of collecting donations, and an interactive program to engage passersby in conversations about dating abuse awareness and prevention. She gathered a group of friends to help her table three stations in front of Whole Foods Market. The first station was where people donated and picked up flyers about the initiative. Her next station included a large white board that encouraged people to write a positive messages about healthy relationships and lastly, a station where she sang. The thought and detail she put into her fundraiser goes to show that she is a well-rounded individual who thinks about all aspects of delivering a message and engaging people through the process. In the end, she came in 1st with raising a total of $6,420! These accomplishments greatly impact the community by raising funds for survivors who need FREE legal services and by spreading the message to people of all ages to put a halt to dating abuse and violence. 

Aside from her participation in this event, Zoe is involved in her school Student Council as well as Baking 2 Benefit, where students bake for their local homeless shelter at her school. In her spare time, she partakes in a number of volunteer activities – at New Children’s Life Center, Silverado Memory Care Community, Relay for Life, School Round Up Guide and Refugee Services of Texas.” – Heather Bellino – TAP ED

Advocate of the Year

Sarah and Team Sarah Brandon 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.

Attorney Sarah K. Brandon received the 2017 Young Hearts Matter Advocate of the Year Award presented by the Texas Council on Family Violence. Each year, TCFV recognizes individuals who are leading the cause to prevent and end teen dating abuse from communities across Texas. Ms. Brandon was nominated by Marla Johnson of the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center.

Sarah Brandon says the award belongs to the community of Dripping Springs, specifically the students at Dripping Springs High School.

For the past six years Sarah Brandon has dedicated her time and talents to raising awareness about the dangers of dating violence, especially in Dripping Springs where she lives and manages The Law Offices of Sarah K. Brandon, P.C. Sarah initially began working with students during her time on the Board of the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center; she organized two fundraisers for the Dripping Springs Bench Bar Conferences, four Mock Trials, has been a leading member of HCWC’s Dripping Springs Town Team, helped support the 1 in 3 5K in 2015, and worked tirelessly to support each year’s HCWC Annual Auction. Through her work with the Dripping Springs Dating Violence Advisory Board (DVAB), Sarah helped form and provides mentorship to the student-led group at Dripping Springs High School. They adopted the slogan “First Love Yourself” (FLY) as a reminder to students to respect themselves and understand that they deserve to be treated well.

The original goal was to inspire these students to be empowered with the warning signs of dating violence. I found a way to do this while involving our judicial system, the school district, and the community. The students took this program and now inspire the adults, the volunteers and one another. The Dripping Springs High School students have given me confidence in the future of our community. “I now have a new goal for this program.” Brandon said, “It is to expand this program into every high school and college in the State of Texas.

TCFV would also like to recognize the amazing Young Hearts Matter Award nominees from across the state who continue to do amazing work on this issue:

Activist of the Year Nominees

Advocate of the Year Nominees


Da’Light Clay, San Angelo, TX – Break the Box Leadership Program


Christy Bazaldua, Tulia, TX – Tulia High School Teacher


Daniela Gonzalez, Brownsville, TX – Veterans Memorial Early College High School 


Jessica Cotton-Bernard, La Port, TX – Communities in Schools Site Coordinator at La Port High School


Harley Pittman, San Angelo, TX – Break the Box Leadership Program


La Tasha Jackson-McDougle, Fort Worth, TX – Cheryl’s Voice


Insiya Aziz, Dripping Springs, TX – Dating Violence Awareness & Advocacy Board – DSHS


Rosie Martinez, Edinburg, TX – Hidalgo County Criminal District Attorney – Victims Unit

XimenaCXimena Coronado, Garland, TX – Garland High School


Tiffany Jones, Dallas, TX – STAR Parent Sponsor for Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support

2016 Nominees and Winners

2015 Nominees and Winners