Junior State of America, also known as JSA, is a world-wide club for high school students to experience political debates, the passing of bills, caucuses, and overall interaction with different students with the same passion for politics around the world. “It’s an actual political structure, inspiring peers, not looking at debates,” Chair and Chief of Staff, senior Ryan Ballance said.
The JSA club itself began in 1937 with the purpose of encouraging students who want to pursue the path of politics to be able to speak up in large crowds, connect with students and overall improve their social skills.
JSA has a total of three congressional fairs every school year. In two locations, the Mid-Atlantic meets for the Winter Congress in D.C, while the other two conventions, fall and spring, take place in New Jersey. On February 21-23, JSA members were able to experience Winter Congress for the first time.
The first day of Winter Congress began with an introduction at 7:30 p.m. of 1,200 students from around the Mid-Atlantic. Each school chapter was able to propose a bill. Over 200 bills were submitted for the Winter Congress and of 200, 70 were chosen. JSA got their bill picked and Club President, junior Christopher Adams and Representative, junior Maggie Arvizu presented it at the Mid-Atlantic Congress.
The Mid-Atlantic was not only about passing bills and having students professionally dress and freely speak their opinions, but also were able to relax at the end of the day from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. with nighttime activities such as dances, trivia, karaoke, and board games.
The second day of Winter Congress started at 9 a.m. where all 1,200 students were separated into different Houses and Senates, allowing each chapter’s Representatives and Senators to present their bill.
Each house was able to debate up to seven bills that were picked from the 70 bills JSA C.E.O and directors picked. Each bill was discussed and voted for during the span of 45 minutes. “I’ve never been in a situation like this before, like ever being able to debate in a place like this,” Arvizu said.
JSA students had the opportunity to see and hear Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg speak. Mid-Atlantic students were able to submit questions and ask Justice Ginsberg for advice when it came to her personal opinions and tips on how to successfully make a difference in government. “They always change speakers, it was truly an experience we couldn’t pass on,” Adams said.