JSA State: Mid-Atlantic (New Jersey)
When was the pivotal moment where you decided to join JSA?
When I approached the JSA booth my freshman year, little did I know that the pictures of students debating and raising money for important causes on the poster would be a snapshot of the next three years of high school. After attending my first conference, the impassioned and dedicated students I met helped me commit to this club and its success. Although my JSA experience may not last beyond high school, I would like to believe that the friends I've made and the lessons I've learned about collaboration and solution-based thinking will stick with me far into the future.
What is an issue you are passionate about, and how has JSA helped you be active in that area?
Something I have found increasingly pivotal, especially during this past election cycle, is engagement in politics and activism beyond the presidential election every four years. Although electing candidates that support the causes you believe in is important, holding them accountable and finding ways to channel political energy outside of the electoral process is crucial. The pandemic and the rise in anti-police protests have shown that the government focuses on corporations' needs and maintains the status quo over their constituents' needs in many scenarios. When our politicians do not take action, we must - through mutual aid, community care, and everyday praxis like finding solutions in JSA meetings. The fight for the causes one believes in should continue long past the Novembers every four years where we eagerly phone bank and stare at the news.
What would you say is an opportunity that JSA provides for you as a High School student?
As students, we are often not taken seriously by older generations. However, JSA lets me and others simulate the situations we may be involved in someday and give us first-hand experience creating policy, debating solutions, and helping causes. Even if one doesn't pursue a career in policy, the lessons learned can help in any field - proposing ideas confidently can help in the business world, and performing in front of crowds can help athletes or musicians. JSA's motto is "Be the People," and every student that takes part in its programs earns the skills to be the person that creates change in society.
How are you a representative of JSA in your local community and beyond?
One of the values of JSA I believe I embody and spread in my everyday actions is collaboration. During the pivotal year of 2020, I have tried to focus on the nuance of issues and understanding the opposing side's point of view - even if there is no chance of a change in my viewpoint. The debate on contentious topics can often result in personal attacks or full-on arguments. I have tried to discuss the grey area and hear the experiences of the communities most affected before asserting my opinion. My [opinion] may not seem to make a large difference, but if many others switch to a more nuanced perspective, we can achieve concrete, bi-partisan solutions that benefit everyone.
Who is a person that inspires you to go beyond the barriers you have?
Although there is not one singular person who inspires me, I would like to say my aspirations are shaped by everyone I interact with. From fellow students to successful non-profit heads, those I have met in my life have all gone through their own hardships and still found success and their own niche. I may be limited by certain societal and personal barriers in my life, but seeing people who have gone through similar experiences or share similar characteristics find happiness inspires me to fight against my internal and external struggles.