Smile 4 Kids: How a Social Science student started her own non-profit

June 21, 2019 - Liz Schondelmayer

Jessica Halmaghi is committed to helping kids. A senior majoring in Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Social Science at Michigan State University, she is also the founder of her own non-profit organization, Smile 4 Kids.

The organization 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 and was founded by Jessica’s older brother, Brandon. A Spartan alum who graduated in 2018 with a degree in Human Biology, Brandon founded the club 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.”

Abhi’s last tweet is prominently displayed on the organization’s website: “Go out of your way to help someone everyday, you’ll sleep better.”

After the club was formed in 2017, the club grew from 80 to around 270 members and then even expanded to other Michigan colleges.

As Jessica approached graduation, she found herself unable to part from the student organization to which she had dedicated so much passion. In March 2019, she took the initiative to turn her beloved club into the nonprofit it is today.

“I reached out to several lawyers for help and each would have charged me around $6,000,” Jessica explained of the process. “So, I decided to do it myself.”

Several calls to the State of Michigan and several hundreds of pages of forms and paperwork later, the Smile 4 Kids Foundation was officially established as a non-profit organization.

When asked how she balances being a full-time student as well as the founder and president of her own nonprofit, Jessica responded, “To me, it’s not work. It’s what I enjoy. I’m happy when I’m doing it.”

She is also extremely thankful for her brother’s contributions to and support of the organization. “My brother is my best friend and my role model,” Jessica said. “He has helped so much with this entire process, and Smile 4 Kids would not exist without him.”

Jessica also credited her supportive professors within the College of Social Science and the classes she has taken as an HDFS for the organization’s success: “I’ve directly applied what I’ve learned in my classes to help foster success in these kids and lead this organization.”

With one more year at MSU to go, Jessica plans to finish her degree and then pursue dental school, all while continuing to lead and grow the Smile 4 Kids foundation.

For more information about Smile 4 Kids and how to get involved, click here.