JSA State: Ohio River Valley (Tennessee)
What has your chapter done to help your local community and/or beyond?
JSA’s largest community service initiative is #GoVoteFarragut, where we have partnered with our Student Government and Model United Nations to encourage eligible Farragut High School students to vote. We ran a social media campaign starting in July to register rising seniors for the August primaries and continued the campaign into the general election season. Throughout the process, we put together infographics on voter registration, early voting, and absentee voting and advertised them to the FHS community. In addition to the voter registration drives, we have offered volunteer opportunities with lobby groups, part-time jobs with US senate campaigns, internships with congressional campaigns, and a chance to phonebank for both sets of candidates currently running in the Georgia senate races. We have also given back to the school. During quarantine, we arranged two debates open to all Farragut students where they could share their thoughts about AP testing and pandemic relief. Furthermore, we partnered with our student government to host a Leadership Series featuring a local campaign field organizer.
How has your chapter been active as representatives of JSA?
In the summer of 2020, our chapter was a vocal advocate for the Black Lives Matter Movement and utilized social media to spread awareness. Through a series of Instagram posts, we shared resources for petitions to sign, organizations to follow, action items, and education platforms, as well as unequivocally denouncing racism and promoting mindfulness. We also encouraged our members to attend the many Racial Justice Week events sponsored by our National JSA. In order to mitigate the loneliness of the pandemic and provide a safe space for students, we opened our DMs to all. Social media was and remains a crucial tool in promoting wellbeing and fostering a sense of community in these difficult times. In the future, we hope to continue our activism and raise further awareness of inequality by hosting events that center people of color. For example, we hope to host a movie night with a film that illuminates a Black or POC struggle and engage in a thoughtful discussion afterward. Moreover, we are in the process of compiling a reading list of diverse authors and insightful topics to distribute around the school and promote the further edification of our student body.
How does your chapter work to increase participation and spread awareness of JSA?
While operating in 2020 has been uniquely challenging, we have adapted to increase participation and awareness of JSA through social media, videoconferencing, and simply being present for our members. This year, we revitalized our social media and used it to engage not only with our members, but with the Farragut High School community at large. Through this medium, we have adapted to the challenges of a virtual environment to reach out to students and advertise JSA opportunities, such as voter registration drives for seniors, that resonate with the student body. In addition, we have met the challenge of maintaining and expanding JSA participation through innovation. We have devised new virtual debate formats that turn the bother of using videoconferencing into an advantage including using breakout rooms to make more room for individuals to have a say and using widespread internet access to encourage short research sessions before debates. To promote further convention participation, we have ensured that any excess fee money is dedicated to subsidizing students who need financial aid. Furthermore, the officers have taken the initiative to support members in every step of their JSA journey, whether that is through reading over a Cabinet application or giving moderating advice.
How does your chapter encourage the non-partisan aspect of JSA to help students feel comfortable to speak and to be active?
As a chapter in a state where one political leaning is very prevalent, we have striven to include all views and create a safe space for the voices of all of our members. When we promote JSA, we emphasize its nonpartisan aspect; but more importantly, we conduct our chapter by this promise. When hosting events, we are sure to include different sides (i.e. holding a phone bank for both the Republican and Democratic candidates in a certain race). In addition, throughout debate, we ensure that students who hold views that are in the minority are not disparaged but instead celebrated for sharing their perspectives. Throughout this year, this approach has allowed even a student whose parents were hesitant about partisanship in JSA to become one of our most active members as we demonstrated to them that all views were valued here. Finally, by promoting JSA as a place where students learn from each other, we confront the reality that there will always be partisanship. By encouraging students to speak their minds while also learning about the ideas of others, we bridge the partisan gap to allow all students to participate actively in open dialogue and active engagement.