Student choirs come together to help domestic violence victims

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Students from 11 different schools in Central Virginia are practicing for the fourth annual WinterSongs Concert.

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, and the concert will bring attention to this issue while fundraising for a local domestic violence shelter.

Performers from Albemarle, Charlottesville, Monticello, Orange and William Monroe high schools will be there, as well the ensembles from Burley-Moran, Henley, Jouett, Southerland and Walton middle schools. The Charlottesville Day School will also have students performing.

Burley Middle School Choral Director Craig Jennings created the concert.

"It's a result of a collaborative effort to bring our young women vocalists together to combat that sort of uncertainty regarding safety," Jennings said.

He had the idea to start the event after the 2014 murder of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.

"A lot of questions were being asked by my students that I didn't have answers to," Jennings said. "'Are we safe? Is Charlottesville somewhere we can live without being worried about being attacked on the Downtown Mall?'"

Jennings hopes the concert can help students become empowered and educated about domestic violence issues.

"A third of my students could face this kind of violence. As a person, you just can't sit there and do nothing," he said, "So this concert is a way to combat that in some way, working locally in my sphere of influence."

All money raised at the concert will directly benefit the Shelter for Help in Emergency, a Charlottesville shelter that helps victims of domestic violence.

Kat Dillon from the shelter said these donations will help many victims of domestic violence in the community. She said the shelter needs about $50 to give one woman safety and shelter for one night.

"Raising funds for the shelter and helping us provide services to current victims of domestic violence is huge," Dillon said.

She also said the WinterSongs Concert gives the shelter an opportunity to prevent domestic violence in the future by educating the students who are participating.

"Our mission is working to end domestic violence in our community and the way we're ultimately going to do that is by starting with the next generation and stopping it before it even starts," Dillon said.

The WinterSongs Concert is at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Monticello High School.

The concert is free, but highly encourages donations to the Shelter for Help in Emergency. You can also donate to the shelter online through its Facebook page fundraiser, found in the Related Links box.

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