What is JSA?

By Ava Ganz

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   What is Junior State of America/JSA?

The Junior State of America is an American non-partisan youth organization, founded in 1934 by Professor E.A. Rogers at the Montezuma Mountain School in Los Gatos, California. JSA’s purpose is to assist high school students in growing leadership skills and acquiring the knowledge necessary in order to be effective debaters and civic participants. The junior state is both a local and a national organization sponsored by the Junior State of America Foundation Inc., which also operates the JSA Summer Schools. JSA consists upwards of 500,000 student members.

The organization is student-run. The student members elect local, regional, and state leaders, all of which are students and they organize the JSA conventions, conferences, and political awareness events. JSA is separated by regions, somewhat congruous with the real geographic United States regions. There are then regions within each state. The Southern California state consists of the Channel Islands region, Angeles region, and Southern Empire region. Some conventions include all of these regions or just two or just one. On the regional level, mayors and vice mayors organize regional one-day conferences. At the high school chapter level, chapter presidents organize local activities and meetings.

Tarbut V Torah’s JSA chapter is within the Southern Empire and, surprisingly enough, we are one of the larger chapters. I personally began my JSA career in my sophomore year. After my first time experiencing a Junior State convention with TVT, I immediately felt strongly inclined to become more involved within the state. JSA is a fantastic organization in which students can improve teamwork effort, compromising skills, and debate expertise. I currently serve as deputy director of debate for the Southern California state as well as assemblyman for our chapter specifically. JSA has helped me so much especially by improving my speaking skills and ultimately growing into a mature person who can have healthy debate with essentially anyone.

You can make JSA your biggest time commitment, or no commitment at all. This is what is so great about the club- it virtually works for anyone. Furthermore, you don’t have to know or like politics to join the club. The other day a fellow student asked me about joining JSA, but expressed their concern as they didn’t even know where they landed on the political spectrum. That’s exactly why they should join and what JSA is for- being exposed to many different opinions and from there on, producing your own opinion.

It probably still isn’t that clear what exactly JSA is. Let’s walk through a typical JSA convention. The next event taking place is Fall State OC in November. It’s not too late to sign up- see/contact myself, Adam Cohen, or Dr. McNellis if you are even just slightly interested. Fall State OC will be all of the Southern Empire region hosted at the Irvine Marriott. You arrive around 9-10am and drop off your overnight bags, after which you’d head into the opening session, where there is always a well-known controversial speaker. After this, the debate blocks begin; debates aren’t just political. Debates that take place within JSA can be comedic, philosophical, or technological as well. Keep in mind that debates are student-only. Typically meaning that debates are either extremely captivating, even if you’re not politically inclined, or similar to stand-up comedy. For lunch/dinner, you and your friends can venture off of the hotel property to nearby restaurants/food courts. After dinner, there is closing session and then some sort of fun social event, which is always a great opportunity to make new friends. This can range anywhere from a talent show, dating show similar to the bachelorette, or ice cream social. At the end of the night, there is a huge dance party with a DJ. Around 11pm, it’s time to head back to your hotel rooms- even though you’ll end up staying up until 2am ordering pizza and watching movies. The next day, after you go eat breakfast, there are more debate blocks. Also, best speaker awards are given out and then there is the final closing session. As you can tell, JSA is not something to miss out on- it’s extremely beneficial both socially and intellectually. Signing up for the JSA club at TVT is one of the best things you can do for yourself during high school.

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