When Valerie Wasveiler was growing up, one of her best friends was the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Wasveiler, a 2008 University of Miami graduate, moved to South Florida from Caracas, Venezuela, when she was 10. She did not know one word of English when she arrived. But with hard work, dedication and determination, Wasveiler overcame the hardship and went on to achieve a lot of great things in life.
One of them was that Wasveiler was recently honored as the 2008 Student Excellence Award winner by the Southwestern Company, which markets family-oriented educational reference products through a sales force of several thousand students.
“I felt really honored and was in shock and disbelief,” Wasveiler said of the award. “To have the CEO and president by my side was awesome. There were four other students there and I was just glad to be nominated but to win the award was really emotional.”
Southwestern provides capital and training for young entrepreneurs and employs more than 3,000 college students each year to sell their products, which include educational books, reference books and CD-ROMs.
Wasveiler’s dream was to attend UM. She worked on her English by studying the dictionary every night with her father after he came home from mowing lawns. She graduated from Miami Palmetto Senior High in 2004 and earned a full scholarship to UM.
Wasveiler’s business law teacher, Patricia Abril, raves about her former student’s infectious qualities and work ethic.
“[Valerie] was a very talented student,” Abril said. “She had a magnetic personality where people always wanted to be around her. She always rose to the occasion and had a relentless pursuit of success.”
Wasveiler walked onto the cross-country team her sophomore year. She practiced and trained with other runners, but was unable to participate in races due to injury. The injury was a blessing in disguise because Wasveiler was able to intern at Southwestern.
That summer she rang door bells pitching her products to customers. If 28 doors slammed in her face, she knocked on the 29th. After three years of persistence and patience in Southwestern’s summer selling program, she made almost $38,000.
Wasveiler currently works as an educational consultant at Southwestern.
“I just want to keep inspiring people,” she said.