District Attorney hosts 8th annual Young Hearts Matter at Bert Odgen Arena

EDINBURG — Sandra Vicencio says she’s seen it before.

The 55-year-old crime victim liaison for the Donna Police Department says she used to work at a middle school where she’d see young couples displaying what one would consider toxic behavior.

She, along with officials from several other law enforcement agencies, attended the 8th annual Young Hearts Matter event held outside the Bert Ogden Arena. The event was meant to bring awareness to dating violence among teens.

“A lot of teens feel that no one cares and that no one’s going to defend them or they’re just scared to speak up, but I think it’s really important that this is brought up to the community,” Vicencio said. “Having a teen myself, I’m always adamant saying if you see something, say something.”

Vicencio also added that when she worked at a middle school, she would see how some students in relationships wouldn’t be allowed to talk to other classmates or how they’d be picked up by their partner’s parents and not their own.

At the event, presented by the Hidalgo County Criminal District Attorney’s Office and the Texas Council on Family Violence, District Attorney Toribio “Terry” Palacios spoke of the amount of teens who do experience dating violence in the country.

“In the nation, it’s reported that 1.5 million teenagers or high school students have reported violence amongst their partners so those are alarming,” Palacios said. “Those things we can address and try to eliminate or lessen.”

Palacios’ advice to any teen experiencing any form of violence from their partners is to report it, whether it be to a school counselor or a police officer.

“We’re not there to belittle you, we’re there to help you,” Palacios said. “You shouldn’t be a victim of anything.”

The event featured several organizations from across the Rio Grande Valley such as the Behavioral Health Solutions of South Texas, the Mujeres Unidas Foundation, the Boys & Girls Club as well many more.

Chappy, a 2-year-old poodle and a support dog with U.S. Border Patrol, gets pet by the PSJA Memorial cheer squad during the 8th Annual Young Hearts Matter Teen Dating Violence Prevention event on at the Bert Ogden Arena Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, in Edinburg. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

The Edinburg Library was also present, prepared with plenty of easels and canvases to allow the students who attended the event to teach the kids that painting can be used as a form of therapy or a creative outlet.

Tiger Fury Kajukenbo, a dojo based in Alton, was also present to teach the students basic self defense maneuvers one could use if ever necessary.

“I think this is very educational for anyone looking for help or if they’re just in search of any information,” 17-year-old Victoria Cruz, of PSJA Memorial High School, said.

Cruz also gave her advice to friends or fellow students who might be experiencing dating violence, echoing Palacios’ sentiments.

“I would say to reach out to your friends first then have your friends help and go to professionals afterwards,” Cruz said. “There’s a lot of teachers and counselors and my principal, Dr. Garcia, is also very helpful. I always go to her throughout the day with any troubles that I have.”

To see more, view Monitor photojournalist Delcia Lopez’s full photo gallery here:

Photo Gallery: District Attorney hosts 8th annual Young Hearts Matter at Bert Odgen Arena