For three weeks this summer, students at the JSA Stern Civics Immersion Program explored, learned, and debated together on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, California. The program’s 64 students hailed from around the globe, coming from Asia, the United Kingdom, the Pacific and Virgin Islands, and towns and cities across the mainland United States of America.
Representing diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and interests, CIP students engaged in college-level coursework, workshops with academic experts, and community building with one another. Led by Dr. Tom Arndt and Professor Janis Crawford in Argumentation and Political Communication, all students developed public speaking skills and shined on debate and speech nights. After over two hours of final rounds of debates, Delyne Tapa emerged as the top debater; the following night, Kayleigh MacDonald was voted best speaker for an inspiring speech.
Students dove into high-level concepts in their respective core classes and completed special projects. The Campaigns and Elections class, taught by Dr. David McCuan, orchestrated a fast-paced, tense election season, as candidates Rachael Cho and Angel Gatica, their campaign teams, and independent expenditure teams went head-to-head in a series of campaign ads ahead of a vote on the final evening of the program.
In Global Poverty, Inequality, and Justice with Dr. Azamat Sakiev, students explored the causes of poverty worldwide. Dr. Stephen Magu’s Human Rights, Conflict, and Stateless People class studied the history of human rights, touching upon case studies such as the Rwandan Genocide, and participating in model diplomacy exercises, recalling course content as ambassadors in the United Nations. In Democracy and Social Media with Dr. Andi McClanahan, students debated whether platforms or users are to blame for division and misinformation online, with students concluding that people must take ownership of how they interact with social media.
On the last weekend of the program, students engaged in cultural activities, putting on a talent show in line with longstanding JSA summer program tradition and exploring many neighborhoods and attractions in San Francisco. Hosted by Adria Eickoff and Kalyani Walter-Sundaram, the talent show featured trivia, cultural dances, poems, and musical covers. On the following day in San Francisco, students explored the shops at Union Square, ate their way through Chinatown, discovered music and fashion at Haight Ashbury, and soaked in iconic views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
On the final day of the JSA Civics Immersion Program at Stanford, all 64 participating students were recognized for their accomplishments at a Closing Ceremony. Michael Atwell showcased his public speaking skills in a keynote address to his peers as the 2023 closing session speaker before they were dismissed for one final night on the Stanford University campus. The next day at departures, many students teared-eyed while giving goodbye hugs and saying their see-you-laters to their new JSA friends.
From those on the CIP staff, thank you to our students and their parents, faculty, and fellow colleagues for another memorable summer. We hope you apply all you learned to your academic, professional, and community pursuits. Wishing you all the best now and always.
By: Noor Amanullah
Contributor: Liz Litteral