LA JOYA, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Juarez-Lincoln High School’s T-STEM Academy Director, Santos Palomo, received the 2023 Advocate of the Year Award.

The award was presented by the Texas Council on Family Violence — a non-profit alliance dedicated to creating safe communities and acknowledging those like Palomo who are making an impact.

Since 2015, Palomo has dedicated her career to providing a safe haven for students at Juarez-Lincoln through initiatives like the Young Hearts Matter campaign and teen dating violence awareness discussions.

Even if it’s a couple of students at a time, at the end of the day, the awareness spreads, and we make a difference in the lives of our students,” says Palomo.

According to the CDC, 1 in 12 U.S. high school students experience physical and sexual dating violence.

That is why Palomo has made it her priority to educate students on the indicators of a violent relationship and how students can seek help. 

Juarez-Lincoln High School student, Jacklynn Munguia, shares, “Everyone in the school is special, and we all feel safe around these grown-ups.” 

For many students at Juarez-Lincoln, their call for help has been heard.

Student Katelyn Garza says about Palomo, “She’s a great listener. She really likes to pay attention. She even likes to follow up to see if you’re doing better than how you were. She really seems to care.” 

Palomo says her open-door policy and meaningful relationships she has built with her students has helped lower the number of fights and referrals at the La Joya school by almost half.

She states, “Before, you used to have fights. Now, the kids are reaching out to us and letting us know, ‘Miss, I don’t want to get in a fight. Can you help me out?” 

Palomo adds students are now more open to communicating issues they may be facing in school and in their personal lives – breaking the cycle of staying silent.