Seventeen-year-old entrepreneur turns her high school experience into a social movement
Starting The Validation Project three years ago at the young age of 15 with only her minimal babysitting money, Valerie Weisler is now helping many teenagers find a safe place where they can feel “validated.” The organization now has over 6,000 teens involved and serves 100 countries. Being the CEO and founder of an organization, speaking at the White House and now officially a TED Talks alum, Weisler is getting quite the education than the average high school student.
After going through her parent’s divorce, she was extremely shy to the point of almost being a mute. Students would be brutal to her and torment her for not speaking, bullying her constantly and recommending that she kill herself. After witnessing another student going through the same painful treatment, she realized that she wasn’t alone and had to do something about it.
“One day, I saw a boy getting bullied and I told him my story. He shared that he was planning to commit suicide that day. The realization that my words had such power changed my life,” Weisler said. “The idea of giving others a platform to share their struggles gave me the self-validation I so desperately prayed for. All of the sudden, I wasn’t the weird girl who didn’t talk. I was Valerie Weisler, CEO. When I saw how much traction it got so quickly, I knew I had to go big – I knew how much my generation needed it.”
The Validation Project encourages teen to use their talents to leave a positive mark on the world. Teens are given access to volunteering opportunities according to their interests, leadership resources, connections with mentors in their desired field, recommendation for college, community service hours and proof that your age is not a barrier to make a mark. To date, some of their participants have assisted in raising $40,000 worth of items for people in need.
Managing a burgeoning initiative, Weisler, now 17, is still trying to balance school, time with friends and growing her business. “Leading an organization while being a high school student definitely isn’t easy, but I love it. At lunch, you can find me in the library making phone calls to our chapters and updating the website. In between classes, my friends make fun of me because I’ll be like, ‘Be right back, I just have to call the State Department about Malaysia,’” Weisler said. “After school, I grab coffee with my friends and do homework. Then, it’s either off to NYC for meetings with mentors or in bed to Skype with a teenager. On the weekends, I try my best to just be Val. I’m lucky enough to have such an incredible support system of friends and family who love me for who I am, not just what I do.”
One thousand schools have now added The Validation Project’s “Kindness Curriculum” instead of the government’s anti-bullying curriculum, to their programming. It was also designed to help establish an environment of inclusion and entrepreneurship in schools.
“That really catapulted the movement because The Validation Project had a presence in the place where teenagers usually hate going – school,” Weisler said.
Her biggest dream for The Validation Project is to work with government officials to help solve some of the large global issues that teens are currently facing. She also hopes to make this organization a “household name,” becoming something that children automatically go to when they feel that they need support.
In addition to her large hopes for the organization’s future, Weisler plans to attend Muhlenberg College to study international affairs through their pre-law program this fall.
“It’s a very social justice-oriented school, so I am super excited,” Weisler added.