Lead, Overcome, Value and Empower

By Jasmine Babers

Barron Prize 2014 JasmineBabers4-1I was beyond honored to accept the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes.  I will be eternally grateful for the $5000 that came at a time when I was struggling to fund my first year of college.  The founder of this prize, T.A. Barron is an inspiration to me because I too believe in creativity without limits.

Each year in elementary school we were required to write a Young Authors book. I would spend weeks planning out every page, constructing a lavish story, and developing characters. It was a time when I could let my imagination run wild. I remember sitting at the computer typing my story with only my index fingers and making my illustrations with the ‘paint’ application. Story telling was a passion for me, but creating was my calling.

The years blew by and once I was in secondary school, Young Author books were no longer required. I was in Jr. High, so being inventive or even being original was usually frowned upon by my peers. So I put my publishing skills aside and started focusing on my social life. I got even closer to my childhood friend who was absolutely brilliant and remarkably shy.  I loved her with my whole heart and we had a particularly deep connection with each other since we had been friends for so long. When I was adopted, she was my first friend with my new family. For as long as I’ve know my Mom and Dad, we have been friends. We would sit in her room on long summer days and discuss our futures while eating ice cream and flipping through magazines. Among the discussion of wedding plans and career choices we would awe at the skinny, flawless girls we saw on the glossy pages of teen magazines. That is when she told me she wanted to be different. We thought of changing her hair, dying it darker, lighter or chopping it off. We thought about working out, going on a diet together… Whatever it took to be ‘perfect.’

In my eyes… she WAS perfect.  Beyond perfect.  She had a heart of gold, brain of steel, mouth full of wisdom, and soul full of love. It shouldn’t have been those models on the pages of the magazine. It should have been my best friend.  Although I was certain of that, she wasn’t… But I wanted her to know.

In September of 2011 just before my 16th birthday I decided to create a non-profit self-esteem magazine that would be written by girls for girls. In Love GIRLS Magazine (LGM), teen girls can not only find advice and relatable stories, but they could also find inspiration and stories about local girls doing amazing things. Love stands for Lead, Overcome, Value and Empower. I found support in my community immediately. Girls were excited to write and adults were willing to mentor and guide.

I’m back to doing what I love, creating. Today girls in Memphis and Washington D.C. utilize LGM to encourage and support the girls in their communities.  My hope is for continued expansion. Today I am a freshman at Western Illinois University and I believe a college education will help me grow the publication. It is not an easy task, but I am up for the challenge.  One review describes Barron’s books as reminding us that the possibilities in life are endless, if we’re only brave enough to take a chance. And even when everything appears to be stacked against you, you’ll find at least one person who will always believe in you!”

I believe Mr. Barron and I have a lot in common.  He tells well-crafted magical stories that have inspired a generation of readers. I too believe in the power of stories, because every girl has a story that deserves to be told.

Jasmine Babers, 19, has been named a national winner of the 2014 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes.  Each year, the Barron Prize celebrates twenty-five inspiring, public-spirited young people from all across America who have made a significant positive difference to people and our planet. The top fifteen winners each receive a $5,000 cash award to support their service work or higher education.  For more information please visit www.barronprize.org.

Love A Sea Turtle, Make A Difference

By Casey Sokolovic

Barron-Prize-2014-_CaseySokolovic2I started my organization — Help Them LAST – Love A Sea Turtle –nine years ago when I was 8 years old.  My organization is dedicated to preserving the world’s sea turtle population, inspiring others to become involved, and providing hands-on STEM focused outdoor summer camp experiences for at-risk youth.

Expanding my mission and continuing my passion has not been an easy journey especially in the middle school years. My peers did not understand what I was trying to do and thought it was weird that I was trying to save sea turtles. From my 9 years of conservation work and countless presentations to youth, I have learned that you must be willing to stand by yourself sometimes and make some sacrifices to do what you know is right and will help the world. There were times when I wanted to give up and stop my efforts, but I knew that I was making a difference in the lives of others and spreading awareness about the plight of sea turtles. I had to develop a thicker skin and keep my trust in God that He had a plan for me and that going through teasing was part of the trials I must overcome.

Soon, my classmates started to understand that what I was doing was making a true impact in the community and that we must help those who have fewer opportunities than us get involved. There are still trials and tribulations that I have to overcome daily, but that goes on in everyone’s life. High school presents new temptations and distractions, but knowing the difference from right and wrong, having a solid group of friends with similar beliefs, and maintaining strong moral values are extremely important in not giving in to these temptations. There will be many people who want to bring you down, but you must remind yourself of the kind of person you are and keep Jesus in your heart at all times.

 

Casey Sokolovic, 17, has been named a national winner of the 2014 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes.  Each year, the Barron Prize celebrates twenty-five inspiring, public-spirited young people from all across America who have made a significant positive difference to people and our planet. The top fifteen winners each receive a $5,000 cash award to support their service work or higher education.  For more information please visit www.barronprize.org