Conversations with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, candidates for Congress and members of Governor Jan Brewer’s staff highlighted the four whirlwind days of the JSA Institute on Arizona State Government and Politics. Nearly fifty students hailing from all parts of the state of Arizona spent June 10-13 meeting and questioning key politicians, journalists and policymakers who shape public opinion and public policy.
A session in the Arizona Supreme Court Chambers proved to be a major highlight of the program. Institute students were allowed to observe two death penalty appeal hearings. As attorneys argued, two lives hung in the balance. The students had the unique opportunity of speaking with the judge after the hearing and getting their questions about the judicial process answered.
It was particularly exciting to be in the courtroom on the day that Justice Andrew Hurwitz was confirmed by the United State Senate to move up to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Other program highlights included Q & A sessions with the controversial Sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, three Democratic candidates for the newly created Congressional seat – the 9th, and a Republican candidate for United States Senate. One of the Congressional candidates, Andrei Cherny, is a JSA alumnus. The students also met for an hour with Senator David Lujan in the State Senate Chambers.
Each evening, students created a simulation of Congress where they wrote and debated legislation to solve some of the critical problems facing Arizona and the nation. Taylor Place, a brand new highrise student residence located on the downtown campus of Arizona State University was home to the students during the program, giving them a taste of college life.
When asked what was the most important thing they learned during the Institute, students said, “The amount of power each individual citizen has, especially in state and local govt.” Another student remarked, “”I learned that sometimes it wouldn’t hurt to work with people who disagree with you.” The great impact that JSA programs have on students was summed up in a quote from one student who said, “I learned that I can make a difference in my government.”