In June, 16 year old Valerie Weisler joined the NFL at the Jefferson Awards National Ceremony, where she represented her organization, The Validation Project, a global movement uniting teenagers to turn passion into positive action through community service and mentorships.
From 5,000 social action projects across the country, The Validation Project was one of 27 chosen to compete in the Lead360 Challenge, a two week social media contest (American Idol style) to find America's teen change maker. Valerie and four other teens made it as finalists and were sent to Washington, D.C. to find out who the winner. On June 16th, 2014, Valerie received the Jefferson Award for Peace and Justice for her organization's advocacy for her generation and the young LGBT community. Valerie came out publicly as gay at the Jefferson Awards ceremony, but it was long before she received that honor that she and her generation started moving mountains.
"I realized at a young age that almost everybody has a dream. The scary part is reaching it." Valerie confessed. She sat down in January 2013 at her mom's computer and googled how to make a website. She spent over six hours at her kitchen designing what would be, in a matter of weeks, a global movement of thousands.
"It skyrocketed pretty quickly. One minute we were getting calls from my next-door neighbor, the next it was teenagers in Spain, Africa, everywhere." Valerie shared.
Valerie appointed an executive board of youth ages 25 and under across the globe, working with Wisconsin native, 16 year old Rebecca Perl. She met Rebecca at a youth group event in October 2013, and they clicked the minute they met. Rebecca now serves as the Director of Programming for The Validation Project, or as the board calls her, The Idea Machine.
"She's exactly what we needed. With more than 900 chapters worldwide, her programs really get our teens going." Valerie said.
Rebecca and Valerie work with more than 5,000 teenagers on global campaigns, transforming what their generation is normally criticized for - social media - into a solution for social issues, focusing on domestic violence, homelessness, special needs youth, bullying and equality for all communities.
This past February, The Validation Project held 3,800 “card parties.” Teens came together and made cards for battered women and families in their areas for Valentine’s Day, donating more than 12,000 cards to shelters across the world.
"We turned what is usually the hardest day of the year for these women into a day where they were more than the bruises on their bodies or the cruel names replaying in their heads," shares Texan teen, Nick.
The real touchdown for The Validation Project was on the football field. Student-athletes involved with The Validation Project noticed that there were special needs kids who would do anything to be on the field, but were not allowed because of their disabilities.
The student-athletes banded together and worked with Valerie and Rebecca to design innovative training, partnering high school student-athletes with special needs teenagers, starting some of the first special needs sports teams in schools globally.
"You can't let anybody tell you not to change the world. No one's gonna do it but you." Rebecca Perl confessed.
From the football field to their online community of thousands, The Validation Project is truly cultivating the next generation of do-gooders.
To learn more and get involved, go to www.thevalidationproject.com.
Twitter - @TheValidate
Facebook Page - The Validation Project
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