Jasmine Babers, a facilitator at the Sullivan Foundation’s upcoming 2019 Spring Ignite Retreat and a proponent of women empowerment, believes every girl has a story to tell. But as a magazine publisher since the age of 15, Babers’ own story deserves a little attention, too.

Babers was still in high school when she launched Love Girls magazine. “Being a girl—being a teenager when I started the magazine and being surrounded by teenagers … I really was just immersed (in) what it’s like to go through the struggles that girls face every single day with bullying (and) with body image,” Babers says.

According to the Love Girls website, she created her own magazine to help a close friend who was being bullied at school—and others like her. “Like so many who face bullying and harassment, she struggled, wondering if the things being said to her were true,” Babers writes. “She lacked role models and mentors to help her (recognize) the amazing, intelligent and wonderful person she was.”

The cover model from Love Girls magazine’s fall 2018 issue

“I decided that I could sit back and watch this happen or I could do something about it, and that is how Love Girls Magazine was born,” she added. “I wanted to show my friend that she was beautiful enough, inside and out, to be in a magazine. I wanted to create a set of everyday role models for all the young girls who did not see themselves reflected in the media.”

The magazine, which is published both in print and digital formats, started out at just 10 pages and grew into a 40-pager. It focuses on self-esteem and women empowerment and provides girls with opportunities in writing, photography, event planning, and leadership. Today Love Girls has impacted over 25,000 girls across the nation.

Babers is now a senior at the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she’s double-majoring in Gender and Women’s Studies and Political Science. She is the treasurer and social chair of SISTERS, a member of Woman 2 Woman, and a founding member of the UIC philanthropy group. She also sits on the Student Advisory Board for the Dean of L.A.S. and the advisory board for the Provost and chairs the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Women.

Off-campus, Babers takes on roles through Fellowships. She is a Peace First Fellow, where she advocates for young people to make peacemaking a part of their lives. She also recently won the prestigious Soros Justice Youth Activist Fellowship.

Babers has received numerous awards, including the USA Characters Unite Award; the Prudential Spirit of Community Award; The Peace First Prize; The Women’s Connection Award; the Royal Neighbors of America Award; and the Young Women of Achievement Award.

Being a product of the foster care system, she says she is thrilled to be spending the next several months working on her project, Fostering Incarceration, where she is doing research and writing a book on the Foster Care to Incarceration pipeline.

Babers accepts a check from Characters Unite in support of her magazine.

“Today I am a college student,” Babers writes on her website. “My journey has led me to tell my story and to tell the story of others. I have had many challenges, although I let none of them define me. When I was first getting started, it was reiterated time and time again that I had two strikes against me: I was a woman, and I was black. I decide to add a third one: I was young. And the list could go on and on because I’ve faced many obstacles. I am a product of the foster care system. I am dyslexic. I’m short. But none of these barriers were so big that they couldn’t be broken. I found many people and organizations also believed in my mission. Royal Neighbors of America, Peace First, School Seed, Iowa Women’s Foundation, and USA Network provided funding and support along with many others.”

And Babers was glad to accept the support. “It’s OK to ask for help,” she notes. “It’s also OK not to know how to do everything. I really have learned to play to my strengths and not focus so much on what I’m not good at and keep working at things I excel at.”

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