1) Get JSA Introductory Materials
Contact the Junior State National Headquarters to obtain copies of the Junior State Introductory Brochure, a tax form, and current literature that describes the organization and upcoming events in detail. Use these materials when you explain the program to interested students, teachers, and administrators at your school. Having printed material in hand makes it easier to describe and promote the program. Talk with a representative about what JSA is all about and gain an understanding of how JSA works before speaking with others. Show this literature to all of your friends, even if you think they “wouldn’t be interested in this sort of thing.” You might be surprised at their responses!
2) Find a Teacher/Advisor
Every chapter must have a teacher/advisor. Teacher/advisors attend chapter meetings, offer valuable guidance to chapter officers and accompany the chapter to JSA conventions and other events. The teacher/advisor is the chapter’s link to the school administration. Teachers inform the chapter of the school’s guidelines for clubs and inform the school administration of the chapter’s activities and their value to the school community.
Although a Junior State Chapter is student-run, the teacher/advisor is an important member of the chapter leadership. Teachers give the chapter crediblity among the faculty as well as providing solid educational guidance to the chapter. The opportunity to mentor JSA members as they develop into confident leaders and top-notch public speakers can be very rewarding. While the students develop and run chapter activities and meetings, the teacher/advisor is active behind the scenes providing much more than just an official signature when needed.
If you are having trouble finding a teacher/advisor, the social studies department chair, principal or activities director may be able to help you. Review JSA materials with potential teacher/advisors and suggest that they contact the Junior State office for additional information and assistance.
3) Get approval from your administration
Talk with your principal and director of student activities. Get their approval for the proposed chapter as an extra-curricular activity. Administrators who understand the value a Junior State chapter has to the entire campus community are strong supporters of the organization and can be very helpful in the initial stages of the chapter’s development.
Become familiar with school policies, rules, and procedures — you’ll need approvals, possibly equipment, a place to meet and probably forms that need to filled out. On most campuses, new clubs must submit their chapter constitution for student government approval.
4) Organize a Founders’ Meeting
Call a well-planned meeting of all interested students to organize your chapter. This “founders’ meeting” should include your teacher/advisor and all interested students who will help you put the chapter together. Have an organized agenda that deals with publicity for your new chapter and preparations for your first big chapter meeting. Discuss JSA as an organization and ensure that everyone is familiar with its mission and can describe potential chapter events.
5) Recruit Potential Members
Get other student leaders at your school interested in the Junior State. Speak to government, speech, and history classes and tell them about the organization. Approach the Honor Society, Debate Team, Journalism Staff, ethnic clubs and other groups on campus. Ask your teachers if they know students who would be interested. Be sure reach out to students from many different groups, from cheerleaders to chess club members. Remember, all students have opinions and can contribute to your chapter, so try to get students of every type to join. For a thorough look at chapter publicity, download the Publicity Handbook from the Virtual Library or contact the JSA office for a copy.
6) Writing a Chapter Constitution
Writing a chapter constitution is a lot easier than it sounds. A sample constitution and guidelines for writing an acceptable constitution can be found in the Chapter Startup Guide. If you like, you can copy the framework provided there and refine it after your chapter is founded. All constitutions must adhere to the Fundamental Principles of the Junior State, meaning that they are democratically run and student led, and must adhere to any school rules.
The structure of your chapter government and the procedures you choose to adopt are up to you and the other members of your chapter. Your Chapter Constitution should be mailed to the JSA national office. Unless you hear back quickly, you can assume that it has been approved.
7) Organize your First Meeting
Call a well-planned meeting of all your potential members. This meeting should be designed to promote your new Junior State chapter and also to get the chapter organized for the year to come. Make sure that this meeting is interesting and productive so that potential members can see that you are organized.
If you need assistance setting up this first meeting, reach out to your student contact or the Junior State Office. Junior State student officials from other high schools are often available to come to your meeting and relate the Junior State experience. They can also give you organizational tips and advice. You can connect with these students through the Junior State Office if you do not already have their contact information.
8) Collect Taxes (Membership Dues)
Collect and send your annual JSA membership dues or “taxes” of $5.00 per member to the Junior State Office. Send your ratified constitution to the Junior State Office as well; remember to save a copy for your records. Upon receipt of your taxes for at least eight members, your chapter will be officially be a part of the Junior State. Elect your chapter officers and set up a chapter calendar of events. At a meeting, elect your chapter officers and set up a chapter calendar of events; ask your student contacts or the Junior State Office about upcoming state events, which are often considered the highlights of the year. Make sure you meet all registration deadlines.
9) Start Having Chapter Activities
Publicize the establishment and chartering of your chapter in school and community newspapers. Start recruiting new members and chapter leaders for future years. Encourage underclassmen to attend Junior State conferences and to help in planning chapter events. By training them now, you can count on them to take over the chapter when you graduate.
Seek community support from local government like your school board and city council, as well as community organizations like the Kiwanis Club, Optimist Club, Rotary Club, Lions Club and the League of Women Voters. Solid relationships with these groups can help bring speakers to your chapter meetings. Furthermore, they are excellent sources of fundraising.
Start holding chapter activities such as debates, simulations, and thought talks, as well as activism projects and school or community events. Varying debate styles and chapter activities will ensure you appeal to a wide range of students and keep your members interested. Starting a chapter is just the beginning – keeping it going strongly requires dedication and good communication skills. Founding a JSA chapter is extremely rewarding and definitely worth the effort.