Jasmine Smyles, a senior at Youngstown State University, is a highly engaged civic leader, who has worked to unify and empower students of diverse backgrounds within the YSU Honors College. She established the group MALAINA, which stands for Middle-Eastern, African-American or Black, Latino or Latina, Asian or Pacific Islander, International, and Native American, to build a sense of community and a safe environment for students to express themselves and educate one another. Jasmine has also been instrumental in the development and execution of the Poverty Awareness in Youngstown (PAYO) and the National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week programs, which both benefit residents of the Mahoning Valley who struggle with poverty.
Beyond her success as an honors student and engaged civic leader, Jasmine is also a student athlete and student employee. Jasmine is exceptional when working with others within the university, as well as the surrounding community. She always demonstrates empathy, intently listens, and works to find solutions.
My passion for economically disadvantaged communities developed at a young age. I feel that people living in poverty, at the poverty line, or in a generational cycle, should have the same opportunities, including their health and well-being. My own journey, which began in an affluent neighborhood before growing up in a food desert with minimal other resources, ignited my desire to address these issues as a public concern. One of my most meaningful service activities is my work with an organization called PAYO, Poverty Awareness in Youngstown. With this organization, we bring awareness to the detriments of poverty and collect food to offer tangible benefits to the YSU Food Pantry and Second Harvest Food Bank. To learn more about how to help struggling communities, I was one of 12 YSU students to attend Propel Ohio at University of Akron. I discussed issues regarding childhood poverty in Ohio, opioid crisis, food security, and inequities in education. Through my leadership by offering support, education, and care, I hope to create a society ready and willing to meet the challenge to create social change to end poverty.