What started out as a school project about teen dating violence quickly turned into something much larger for six Texas students.
The girls, who are in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, chose the topic for the outreach program Destination Imagination, Jezebel reports. Although they haven't started dating yet, the students have heard enough stories -- from boys calling their girlfriends fat to threats of self-harm -- about teen dating violence.
"We started doing more and more research on it and looking around our schools too, and we found that there were multiple cases where the boyfriend was abusing the girlfriend," Ashlyn Ellgass, an eighth-grader at Lindale ISD, told Jezebel. "And it's not always physically -- it's usually mentally. Whenever we saw that, we just knew that we needed to help."
Realizing what a huge problem it was, the girls organized a haunted house to raise money for a PSA called "Channel Your Anger," which they filmed on Dec. 31. They then contacted the Texas Advocacy Project, an organization that provides legal services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Texas, and the group got on board.
“The girls reached out to us a few months ago. After doing research on their own, they felt that our goals and our mission were most in line with what they wanted to do ultimately, which was to affect change at the legislative level," Heather Bellino, executive director of the Texas Advocacy Project, told The Huffington Post. “They wanted to use our URL at the end of their PSA to redirect people, and we said 'absolutely.'"
Last week, the students went down to the Texas Capitol, where they spent a day discussing amendments to a bill, originally passed in 2007, that required students to be educated about dating violence. A new bill has been filed, according to Jezebel, which will "create a workgroup to analyze these policies and find a better way to implement dating violence programs in schools."
“One of our contacts said getting them here to the capitol and giving them a chance to speak to one of their representative would be huge," Bellino explained. "They drummed up all those meetings on their own and they led the conversation.”
The girls have also gotten a strong response from their peers.
“Some of them have asked for help, another friend asked me for a list of things to look for,” Ellgass told KXAN.
Yep, we're officially inspired.
Visit Jezebel for a Q&A with the six students.