Meet Josie Valeri: a modern-day hippie who not only brings it on the soccer field, but in her mission for a more accepting world as well.
Josie Valeri is an artist, athlete, and autism advocate with a killer sense of humor and an infectious smile. A college freshman from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Josie's studies Psychology at Point Park University in tandem with playing soccer as a defender for their highly-praised women's team.
Josie fell in love with soccer at the age of three, and that love only strengthened as she grew older. Prior to college, Josie played for several different soccer teams in Pennsylvania, including the prestigious Olympics Development Program and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
And although Josie is fierce on the turf, her strength really shines off of it as well. After two ACL tears, her soccer career was in serious jeopardy. However, Josie is definitely not the type to give up easily, especially when it comes to her passions.
"I was supposed to be back on the field in six to nine months," Josie said regarding her injury. "And your girl did it in five months...both times."
Yet Josie's passions go far beyond soccer. In 2018, she attended a week-long cruise ship excursion to Mexico with her family's philanthropy "Parker Autism Organization."
Here, she led a group of fifteen autistic youths --including five of her own cousins-- in activities such as snorkeling, boat and fish tours, and local dining and shopping throughout Mexico and South America. And on the ship, Josie put her artistic talents to good use: organizing events like arts and crafts, slime-making, and friendship bracelet constructing at the end of each day.
After the cruise, Josie continued her work with Parker Autism Organization for close to a year before leaving for college, but has every intention of returning because of the life-long impact her work had on her.
Through her work on the ship and growing up with autistic relatives, Josie has a mission to help others recognize autistic individuals as the pure, wonderful, and inspiring people that they are.
"They just show the most authentic versions of themselves at all times and it really taught me that I need to be the same way!"
Months later, Josie still uses her advocacy work as a constant reminder to stay positive, accepting, unique, and authentically herself. As an artist, Josie draws inspiration from her past experiences and the world around her to create original, one-of-a-kind works of art in hopes of influencing others to make the world "a place of non-judgment, so that everyone can freely express who they are."
Josie Valeri may be fiercely intimidating on the field, but beyond that competitive, athletic exterior is an extremely joyful, giving, and accepting spirit with enough lyte inside of her to brighten the entire world.