She was bullied relentlessly in school. Now she's helping teens change the world.
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L'Oréal Paris Women of Worth

Like so many kids, Val Weisler experienced her fair share of bullying when she was in high school.

It left her feeling ostracized and alone, that is until she realized she was far from the only one being bullied.

"I thought I was the only person dealing with it, and then I saw another student being bullied," admits Val. "I went up to him and I just said the two words I was hoping that someone would tell me: 'You matter.'"


The boy told her that her coming up to him and expressing what she did made him feel validated.  

That interaction sparked an idea in Val — if all kids who are bullied were told that they matter, maybe bullying could become a thing of the past?  

So she started an organization dedicated to doing just that, which she appropriately named The Validation Project.

Photo via Weisler/The Validation Project.

But teaching kids that they have worth is just part of its mission. Ultimately, the project endeavors to give kids the resources they need to take their newfound confidence and become social good activists.

They also teach kids that there's no reason to wait until they grow up to make an impact.

"Remember in elementary school, everyone would ask you what you want to do when you grow up? Well, here at The Validation Project, we ask you what you want to do NOW because there's no reason to wait to change the world," their site notes.

So far, The Validation Project has reached 6,000 teens and over 1,000 schools in 105 countries, but that doesn't mean Val's stopped connecting with individual kids.

In fact, she recently visited Camp Scuffy, which is near where she grew up in Ramapo, New York, to share what she's learned with the kids there.

Photo via Upworthy.

Not only does she teach her kindness curriculum, which has helped reduce bullying significantly in the 1,000 schools that implement it, she helps kids hone in on a social justice issue that they're passionate about so they can start doing something to support it.

"My favorite thing is watching how quickly a kid can come up with an idea when you give them a marker a poster board and you ask them what they care about," says Val.

She also acts as a cheerleader for them if they're feeling defeated for whatever reason, and constantly reminds them that they're worth it. Those moments are as equally validating for her as they seem to be for the teen she's connecting with.

Photo via Upworthy.

It's no surprise that the Validation Project has received accolades for its work. Thanks to that attention, Val is looking towards the future and how she can reach even more kids who need a boost.

For example, she was recently a recipient of the L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth Award, which acknowledges women who are giving back to their communities in extraordinary ways, and it's opened up so many possibilities for her.

"It's elevated the Validation Project so I can reach the communities that really need to hear my message," explains Val.

But most importantly, it's reminded her why her mission is so important, especially in the face of the many social challenges kids face today.

"Knowing you’re worth it is the foundation of anybody’s sense of confidence, anybody’s sense of self-worth, sense of caring for themselves and caring for the world," she says. "That’s why I do what I do."

Learn more about Val and The Validation Project here:

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less