Texas Council on Family Violence Names Austin Teen Activist of the Year

AISD senior raises awareness about dating violence

McCallum senior Ingrid Smith

In observance of National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) will present Austin ISD senior Ingrid Smith the activist of the year award at an event for the Texas Advocacy Project on Feb. 24.

More than 50 youths ages 13-19 were killed by a partner or former partner in Texas from 2017 to 2022, according to Honoring Texas Victims Reports. The organization’s 2022 report noted a significant increase of nine perpetrators of domestic violence homicide under the age of 19 in Texas, compared to one perpetrator in 2021. According to a survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 12 high school students experienced physical dating violence nationwide.

In addition to the typical academics inherent to being a senior at McCallum High School, Smith is also editor of her high school newspaper, violinist and fiddle player, and co-president of the Texas Advocacy Project’s Teen Ambassadors of Hope program – a statewide leadership program that raises awareness about dating violence and fundraises for the cause.

Smith was introduced to the movement her sophomore year when her classmates organized a walkout to protest the handling of sexual assault cases for local youth. “I saw students with handprints painted on their bodies, holding signs saying, ‘Our halls should be safe,’ and telling their stories through a megaphone,” Smith said. “That was the first time I understood sexual assault was happening around me, that it could even happen to me.”

Smith got involved with the Texas Advocacy Project after interviewing a violence prevention strategist while writing an article about the walkout. She raised nearly $2,000 for TAP selling personalized videos of her playing fiddle tunes. Her creative fundraising struck a chord, winning her the annual Innovator Award. Two years later, Ingrid is still deeply invested in the program, leading training sessions and speaking to teens across Texas about healthy relationships.

“Every time I hear a victim’s story – some returning to safety and some less fortunate – I am reminded that my advocacy can change lives,” Smith said.

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