Four years ago, Val Weisler could barely speak. Now, at 19, she’s the CEO of a global empowerment movement called The Validation Project.
“When I was in high school, I was bullied pretty badly because I was shy, almost to the point of being mute,” she says. “One day I saw another kid who was being bullied and I told him he mattered. And we could walk down the hallway together to get through this.” Weisler had an idea: She could be a resource, encouraging other vulnerable kids and telling them they matter, too.
THE VALIDATION PROJECT
She built a website where bullied classmates could ask for company at the lunch table. Soon, teenagers from nearby schools also began emailing, then schools on the other side of the country and even the world. “It went from this little anti-bullying idea into this international movement,” she says.
While the teenagers’ struggles varied, one thing they all had in common was that they had passions. The Validation Project quickly evolved. “We would validate their worth first and then give them resources to use their skills to solve issues on a global level,” Weisler says.
When teenagers reach out to The Validation Project, Weisler asks them what skills or aspirations they have that make them feel good about themselves. She then contacts an adult in the teen’s community with similar skills and asks if the adult would serve as a mentor. For example, if a teen loves to cook, Weisler would ask a nearby chef to mentor the teen after school. After interning with this adult for two months, the teen would volunteer his or her skills to help solve another problem in the community, such as visiting a homeless shelter and renovating the menu.
The Validation Project has worked with 6,000 teenagers in 105 countries. The organization has 3,000 adult volunteer mentors, ranging from Google software engineers to football players.
Weisler’s tips for validating others:
- When you notice someone is down, don’t immediately tell the person why he or she should be happy. Sometimes all someone needs is a person to sit in their sadness with them.
- Make them know their feelings are valid.
- Then validate: Make some tea, ask the person to go see a movie with you, or tell him or her what you love about them.
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.