Valerie was a shy high school freshman when she came across a student being bullied and said two words that changed both of their lives, “You matter.” His response, that her words “validated” him, planted the seeds for The Validation Project. Having experienced bullying herself, Valerie launched the project to help other teens gain confidence, believe in themselves more deeply, and develop the skills to address social justice issues. Teens identify their skills and passion, partner with mentors in their field of interest, and then design campaigns to positively impact their community. The Validation Project also incorporates a “kindness curriculum,” that has replaced government-led anti-bullying courses in nearly 1,000 schools across the globe.
The Validation Project has grown from a handful of New York schools into a global organization with chapters in 105 countries. As of 2016, when Valerie received the Award, 6,000 teens had gone through the program, 38,500 teens joined chapters, 3,000 adults had served as mentors, and $40,000 in goods and services had been donated in support of the project. In recognition of her success and her contributions to dozens of charities, Valerie has gotten attention from the White House, the UN, the State Department, and several other high-profile organizations, including the NFL, Seventeen Magazine, and the United Synagogue Youth. She also gave a Ted Talk in New York City to further spread her message of kindness and validation.