ARTICLEThe Validation Project: Transforming Struggles into Superpowers

The Validation Project, a global youth empowerment organization, strives to teach students to recognize their worth and turn their passions into social change. Founded in 2013 by Valerie Weisler, then a high-school freshman, The Validation Project has reached over 6,000 teenagers in 105 countries so far.

Now a senior at Muhlenberg College, Weisler describes her inspiration for founding the project. She was bullied in high school and felt alone.

Bullying is prevalent throughout the country, harming young people in various ways. According to a 2019 CDC report on preventing bullying in schools, 20% of students were bullied on school grounds last year, and bullying occurs weekly in 14% of public schools.

Weisler explained that she experienced a “click moment” while witnessing another student bullied at school. “I felt like I had to do something and I knew I would have support from my Jewish community,” she said.

Since founding The Validation Project, Weisler’s Jewish community has been her “biggest support system.” Weisler grew up spending her summers at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack, NY and served on USY’s “International Social Action/Tikkun General Board” throughout middle and high school.

Beginning her social justice work in these Jewish spaces helped shape her belief that she could start The Validation Project. Weisler recounted, “Through USY, I learned how to put an idea into action, and through Ramah Day Camp in Nyack, I knew firsthand the power of friendship and supportive adults who give youth the tools to make a positive impact.”

As her organization grew, so did her Jewish network. At the beginning, her USY friends led events at their conventions, and her Ramah counselors encouraged her to continue with her important work, “spreading it to their communities as well.” Later, the Foundation for Jewish Camps, USCJ, numerous synagogues, and The Covenant Foundation became partners, broadening the organization’s impact internationally.

The Validation Project utilizes various campaigns and tools empowering students to recognize their worth and transform their passions into action. These resources include a Resilience Workbook that provides prompts and activities to set goals and gain confidence, Popcorn Pop-ups to bring free screenings of social justice-themed films to young people, a Celebrity Ambassador Program that spreads the organization’s message on social media, and Bookmark, which helps educators use literature to spread the message of empowerment and social action. Weisler also designed a “pro-kindness curriculum” that is currently implemented in 1,000 schools to teach students and educators how to use entrepreneurship to solve problems in their communities. These programs reflect Weisler and The Validation Project’s commitment to validating each individual’s passions and interests, while providing the tools to make real change.

Weisler also works hands-on with students who experience bullying through her one-on-one mentoring program and through the establishment of Validation Project chapters in over 1,000 schools around the country. When describing the positive impact of these programs, Weisler shares, “I've gotten to see the immediate transformation that happens when I hand a student a marker and ask them what they care about. In 30 minutes, students ranging from age five to age 18 have full-fledged campaigns, ready to solve issues in their communities using their passions.”

The Validation Project is continuing to develop new ways to help students. Weisler is currently envisioning adding “a think tank where youth can work for free with policymakers and lawyers to solve the issues they face.” Weisler hopes to develop a “layered fundraising plan” within the next two years to allow her to run The Validation Project full time when she graduates from college in 2020.

Understandably, the current global pandemic has transformed much of The Validation Project’s programming, which relies on workshops in schools and in-person events. Once summer begins, the organization will be launching a virtual summer school, “with weekly workshops on Zoom teaching everything from how to draw a person, to how to cook, to how to be a storyteller.” Social media will be utilized to engage students and members of The Validation Project community from across the world. Plans include Instagram “takeovers” to show followers different parts of the world and sing-along sessions from international artists. Weisler is taking the lessons from this difficult time to strengthen her organization. “It's been difficult to pivot so quickly,” she said, “but it's causing me to ensure we are as accessible as possible – during this situation, and always moving forward.”

As the world changes and many young adults feel helpless, The Validation Project provides an inspiring example of how to turn a painful experience into positive change. It can take a single moment to spark a passion, whether it’s realizing you’re not alone, or advocating for a peer – each individual’s passion can transform into action. To create this change, Weisler’s advice is to “take advantage of the network you already have. Talk to your friends, your family, your rabbi, your teachers. Ask questions and don't be afraid to ask for help. Many people will tell you that you can't do this: You can.”

By Molly Voit, for The Covenant Foundation

More to Consider

Close gallery ×