A true sign of strength is being able to turn a difficult situation into valuable experience. That’s exactly what 17-year-old Valerie Weisler did after she was bullied in school over her shyness.
According to CNN Money, just four days before the start of her freshman year of high school, Weisler’s parents divorced, causing her to internalize her feelings and therefore come off as shy to her new classmates.
“Kids would call me mute, make up rumors that I didn’t have the physical capability to speak,” Weisler explained to CNN. “It would take me 10 minutes just to talk back to you.”
Four years later, and not only is Weisler no longer a shy freshman, she is also the CEO of The Validation Project, a global movement she started that is “based on the premise that a little positive affirmation goes a long way.”
CNN explained that the project, which has already had around 6,000 students around the world participate, works in this way: “The Validation Project matches teens from 100 countries with a mentor at companies like Google ( ) or Seventeen Magazine. Mentors are paired with teens who share similar passions or skills. They work together for a minimum of four hours per week for two months.”
Once participants complete their time in the program, they then agree to volunteer in some way beyond the program; for example, CNN says that a girl who took dance classes with a professional dancer then went on to teach the choreography at a homeless shelter.
Weisler explained the impetus behind her project, citing an incident in 2013 with a fellow high school student who was bullied by other students for being overweight. Weisler said she went up to him and told him that he mattered, to which he responded explaining his plans to commit suicide later that day. But, her words had an impact on him, as she said he told her that her kindness “really validated him.”
She then conducted a Google search on the meaning of the word “validation,” which inspired the name for her organization. CNN says Weisler started it with just $25 of her babysitting money, which was used to purchase a web domain.”
Since then, Weisler has grown The Validation Project into over 900 chapters in schools around the world, earning her a National Jefferson Award for Peace and Justice, says CNN. Going forward, she plans to “register the Validation Project as a 501(c)(3) as soon as she’s legally able to — when she turns 18 in February,” which would allow for donations to be tax-deductible.
Weisler has made quite the name for herself, and those who once bullied her have actually come to her to ask for internships with her organization. And keeping true to the spirit of her project, she let them: “I’m hoping that by showing how powerful being kind is, they won’t feel a need to be mean to someone else.”
Thank you, Valerie Weisler, for showing us the power of kindness. You are truly living the inspired life.