MSUToday
Published: Jan. 9, 2020

MSU senior named one of Yahoo's 'Top Ten Female Leaders to Pay Attention to in 2020'

Contact(s): Elizabeth Schondelmayer CABS Integration schonde3@msu.edu

Social scientist Jessica Halmaghi is a senior at Michigan State University studying Human Development and Family Studies, the CEO and founder of the nonprofit Smile 4 Kids, and — as of January 2020 — one of VIP Media Group’s Top Ten Female Leaders to Pay Attention to in 2020.

Her commitment to giving back to children in need earned her a spot on the list, which was published on Yahoo! Finance, alongside female entrepreneurs, artists and influencers from around the world.

“It is an incredible honor to be acknowledged as one of the Top 10 Female Leaders to Pay Attention to in 2020,” says Halmaghi. “I am fortunate to have a hard-working and passionate team who makes it easy to lead and deserves just as much credit.”

Smile 4 Kids focuses on helping kids get through tough times by establishing long-lasting relationships through fun activities, tutoring and overall positive interaction.

Working especially with foster and chronically ill children, the club aims to provide hope, instill resilience and develop opportunities for children in need of any sort, and no child is ever turned away.

The organization started as a student club at MSU, co-founded by Jessica and her older brother, Brandon, who graduated from MSU in 2018. The club was founded in honor of the siblings’ close friend Abhi Shah, who passed away in November of 2016.

“Abhi was the kindest person I’ve ever known,” said Jessica of her and Brandon’s late friend. “His passing taught me to live life to the fullest and to do more to help people.”

After the club was formed in 2017, it grew from 80 to around 270 members, and eventually reached 1,200 members as it expanded to other Michigan colleges.

In March 2019, Jessica took the initiative to turn her beloved club into the nonprofit it is today.

To Jessica, the hard work of balancing her organization and her studies isn’t a burden — it’s what she truly enjoys doing.

“Personally, working with children has positively impacted my life in every aspect. I make more of a conscious effort to go out of my way for others and treat people from all walks of life with only kindness and compassion,” says Halmaghi.

In the future, Halmaghi hopes to expand the organization and continue to get young people involved in the Smile 4 Kids mission.

“I would like to see Smile 4 Kids expand to other schools and aim to get the younger generations involved, too. I do believe that it will show them the importance of uniting people through love, especially in a society that, at times, can be so fueled on separating each other through hate.”

For more information on the organization and how you can get involved, visit the Smile 4 Kids website.

Jessica Halmaghi is the CEO and founder of the Smile 4 Kids foundation.