I met Valerie while I was in my early 20’s working in the Financial District of San Francisco. I was working my way through Community College with the goal of transferring to earn a Bachelor’s Degree. Valerie was always supportive of my goals and became a pseudo mother to me. She helped me with the transition into a full-time student when I was accepted to Mills College. To this day, Valerie has always made herself available and accessible to me whatever the need. She is an amazing human being who offers honesty and genuine compassion and love to those around her. I will forever be thankful for meeting Valerie and her invaluable contribution to my life. I always know I have a place with her.


Ms. V is the most wonderful human being I’ve ever met during high school. She is a loving person that really cared about and made sure that I wasn’t doing bad things in school.  She was very helpful to me during my time in high school and made me want to do better. She supported me in anything I did which made me more motivated. I respect Ms.V to the highest point you can because I really felt she cared about me and my fellow students. I’m going to always care for and remember Ms. V forever. She is the best most wonderful person I’ve ever met.

Meghann R.

I had the privileged of having Valerie as a mentor. She helped me through some of the toughest years of ridicule and self-evolvement. Valerie taught me better ways to communicate and problem solve and I have seen significant improvements in my personal relationships. I continuously use the knowledge that I have learned and see the value of her teachings every day. I am very grateful to have Valerie as someone I can trust and turn to when I need guidance in my life.

Meghann R.
Natalie P.

When Valerie became my coach I was stuck inside myself. I could not clearly see healing and possibilities in my life. Most people look at me and think I’m a lost cause, or too far gone for recovery. Valerie was not one of those people. During our coaching sessions she listened to me and really heard me. I had not been heard before, so having her really hear me and connect was a true blessing. She is understanding and truly recognizes challenges and obstacles that occur in life. She challenged me to search within to find what was best for me. Even when I was at my lowest, hopeless moments, Valerie was there to help me up and encourage me to gain other perspectives and possibilities. She held me gently accountable for the things that I planned to do, and helped me devise other plans when I felt stuck. She gave me and continues to give me unconditional support and care. I never thought I would be this far into my life being as healed and happy as I am. I know I am who I am today because she came into my life.

Natalie P.
Nicole M.

I have had the immense pleasure of knowing Valerie since I was in high school. Initially she aided me in coping with the death of my father my freshman year. It was incredibly difficult for me and for my brother who was a junior at the time. Valerie always made a point to check in on both of us and offer to assist us in any way as we coped with such a huge loss.

Valerie was essential in teaching me excellent communication, listening, and problem solving skills. Many of these skills aid me in my life today. I am now a graduate of nursing school and am finding that many of the techniques I was taught are of vital importance in my future career as a nurse. It is difficult to put into words how much Valerie has helped me throughout my life. The two major experiences I mentioned were just the first to come to mind when I think of her. Many days she served simply as a constant reminder to stay strong and that no matter the challenge I was stronger than I thought. I will forever be blessed to know Valerie and have her in my life. She is truly an asset and I believe she has the power to help so many people with her incredible talents like she has for me.

Nicole M.
Cory J.

I was the typical high school kid who hid everything for fear of judgment. I met Ms. V my freshman year of high school, she helped me with many different transitions: my family, school, and life. She was, and still is, one of the people I feel comfortable opening up to and asking for help. Throughout high school I always felt lost, disappointed, and confused. I didn’t know who I was or who I wanted to be. Ms. V helped. She helped me figure out my family, and she helped me figure out myself. She always found a way to point me in the right direction: in a way, always knowing where I wanted to go. She gave me the push I was so afraid of. She taught me more than school ever could, she taught me about life. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for her.

Cory J.
D’kilwayte J.

I believe that everyone enters your life for one reason or another. Although we may not understand it initially, they create an impact whether directly or indirectly in our future. Valerie has been one of those key figures in my life as well as numerous others I am sure, during my development into the person I am today. Many are unaware of how malleable teenagers are in high school, however Valerie has always been one of the few who has. She was a figure to help keep us in a direction that best helped myself in particular find the path that allowed me to become the best me I could be. She opens our eyes to our strengths, as well as areas which we should improve. I am truly grateful for her guidance during the times I was most susceptible to fall either on or off course in life.

D'kilwayte J.

I met Valerie Arno when I was a teenager. She worked with the youth group at a local church in Antioch, CA. She gave her time, energy, love, and coaching not only to me, but too many of the teens that were involved in the youth group.

She was always there to listen and empathize, without judgment. She offered wisdom and helped guide us through difficult situations. I was able to reconnect with Valerie in my early 20s again and she did not hesitate to offer the same wisdom and guidance. She assisted me in focusing on my goals and dreams for the future during a time when I felt very lost and uncertain in the phase of life I was living. I consider myself very blessed to have her personally impact my life, and would say the same for anyone that works with Valerie as their coach.

Lori H.
Alaina S.

I have experienced my fair share of hardships. At times I felt alone; without a mother, father, and sister, Ms. V.’s love and support gave me the courage to continue to fight for my dreams. Valerie or Ms V. (as I have come to know her) entered my life at a pivotal time. When we met, I had recently moved to CA to begin my second semester of my junior year at the third high school of my academic journey. My sister had just committed suicide and I was in need of a fresh start and opportunity to rebuild my life. The moment I stepped foot on campus, I was greeted with a friendly smile and protective energy. Ms. V. focused the conversation on my interests rather than the recent tragedy that struck my family. I did not know it at the time, but Ms. V. would quickly become a mentor, protector, ally, friend, and what I now affectionately refer to her as, “my mama bear.”

When I came out of the closet a few years later, she gave me the love and support I yearned for during that time. I have felt empowered by Ms. V. because of her ability to ask the right questions at the opportune time, which generates productive dialogue for me to deeply investigate the inner-workings of the ways in which I am coming to view the world. Her expertise in effectively cultivating and mentoring has undoubtedly shaped her ability to navigate the complexities of life with other people she mentors. Ms. V. has a unique way of creating a productive space to realize your full potential regardless of your age, gender, sexuality, race, etc., because she makes everyone feel safe and comfortable through her warm heart, life experience, and listening ear. Her keen ability, sensitivity, and emotional intuition make her an ideal life coach, but more importantly, these traits in addition to others are the reason why I consider her a lifelong friend.

Alaina S.
Words Hurt


words hurt


A while back I had an unexpected visit from a neighbor’s son who is a 20 year old who has been struggling with addiction, lack of motivation and follow through. He is a kind young man, very creative, but a bit lost on his path. As we chatted I asked a few questions. I believe it important to engage one another. I asked him the standard “So, how you doing?” and “What do you see for yourself in the future?” His answers surprised and saddened me all at the same time.

He made mention that he had been working with his dad in construction but that this wasn’t his vision for his life. His dream was to go to school to learn to play music. When I asked what was stopping him I was taken aback by his reply…”My dad says I’m too stupid and my mom says I never finish anything so why even start.”


I felt saddened that a child would be told this by his own parents because I can remember hearing similar words in my youth. My instinct was to reply with more questions. “Why do you think your mom feels that way?” “What is it like to hear that from your dad?” His answers were interesting to me. He said, “My mom feels that way because of my history and my dad – well he’s just my dad.”

We talked a bit more about this and the last thing I said to him was, “Understand that your mom’s point of reference is based on history BUT remember you today are NOT your past. You are a very talented/creative young man – smart as a whip – so none of those reasons work for why you aren’t going for it. How determined are you? How motivated are you? Not to prove them wrong but to show them how much you are willing to grow?” His face light up!


This got me to thinking about what words I’ve spoken to my own kids that may have been harmful? Words have so much power and they can cut deeply and take years to heal. I believe we sometimes use words harshly to make us feel bigger or more important, and in a twisted way, to validate ourselves when we are confronted with our insecurities.


When my kids were younger as well as when I worked at the high school, I would often speak to kids regarding words and the power they have. One of the analogies I would use is this:

You have this piece of wood; it’s newly cut, fresh and clean, beautiful really – that would be the person you are speaking too. Then come your words, the kind affirming words, they keep the wood beautifully unharmed, leaving the wood open to sharing more. But, when the words are harmful, hurtful, unkind or degrading they then become like nails in that wood. The nails pierce holes into the wood leaving it ever changed. If you take the nails out of the wood there will be holes.You can add putty and sand it until it is smooth again (that would be the apology) however the wood is still ever changed. Even though the holes have been filled the damage to the wood is still there, it’s just covered up.


I share all of this with one thing in mind – to educate! At some point in our lives we have allowed our words to lash out, to hurt – whether intentional or not – the damage is the same. My offering to you is this, don’t beat yourself up for speaking unkind words; instead, keep this analogy in your memory as you prepare to speak. THINK … what effect will your words have, what is your intent, and are you encouraging or hammering nails?

Remember:  No amount of apology can ever take back what is said in anger, hate, or retaliation. Choose words wisely – your loved ones are listening.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *