By Zoe Moore
Junior States of America (JSA) is a club at Alameda High in which students speak and debate about current events and politics. Members of JSA participate in conventions, which gives them the chance to speak to others about issues that they believe in.
JSA members at the school have a lot of pride in our school chapter, and multiple members mentioned that they love the sense of community the club has built. “The community that we have at JSA is really, really close knit…we really talk to each other, we see each others’ viewpoints, we see each others strengths and weaknesses, and we build up upon those,” Kyle Alves, a senior, said.
Senior Elizabeth McDonough, president of the school club and lieutenant governor of NorCal state JSA, views community as something that sets JSA apart from other debate-involved clubs. “It doesn’t have that same competitive atmosphere as other public speaking clubs. It’s a lot more community-oriented and [has] a lot more opportunities for student leadership,” she said.
The school’s JSA members consider Alameda High’s JSA chapter to be the most prominent chapter in Northern California, as it has won chapter of the year two times in a row. AHS JSA is not only the biggest chapter, but its members hold more cabinet and leadership positions than any other chapter. “Redwood has quality. This other chapter has quantity, but we have both,” freshman Caroline Choi said.
At conventions, a successful main speaker is brought in to center the convention with a speech, and then there is an opportunity for people to subsequent (give a speech after the main speaker). Choi, who subsequented at the latest convention, spoke about atheism, theism, and feminism, but said that she wasn’t scared to speak in front of a crowd because her friends were there with her for support.
There are also debating blocks so that issues are debated, and eventually members vote on winners for each debate. Thought-talks, where people go around and speak out their opinion, are another part of a convention.
JSA and its conventions offer the opportunity for high-schoolers to speak to other politically aware teenagers. Sophomore Oliver Soglin sees this as one of the biggest pros of JSA. “There’s just not a lot of people that are paying attention and they care…at school you have to find people to have a serious conversation with, at JSA everyone you can have a serious conversation with.”
Senior Marianna Scott, a director of debate, adds to this. “I look around me and I see a lot of young people who don’t care about politics and don’t care about what’s going on, and JSA is important to me because it really gets people involved in politics.”
Many of the people who are in JSA today found out about the club from outreach at Lincoln Middle School, a strategy Alves attributes some of the chapter’s success to. “We’re probably the greatest because we outreached to the middle school awhile ago. We do a lot of outreach in the school right now, we get as many people to join as possible.”
Conventions are something unique that Alves says are instrumental in keeping members in JSA. “If you ask anyone, whoever’s gone to a convention, they immediately basically just fall in love with the club, like really anyone,” he said.
Many JSA members recommend for people to join JSA, for one reason or another. Soglin says, “People go to one convention and they fall in love with it. So I feel like everyone should go to one convention and then everybody would love it.”