JSA alumni vote at almost twice the national average, and many also run for local, state, and national positions.
Here are some of the JSA alums who stepped up to run for elected office this year. If we missed someone, our apologies, and please let us know.
Huntington Beach City School District Board
When the president of the school board decided to retire, I weighed whether to run. There were many reasons for me not to run for office, but ultimately, why not me? As the JSA slogan goes, “Be the People.” I also hope to bring the skills I developed in JSA, especially the ability to engage in thoughtful debate with people with whom I disagree, to the school board.
It is hard to imagine my career path without JSA. JSA--and especially the people I met and the friends I made in JSA-- opened up an entirely new world to me. Nearly every decision I made career-wise I can trace back in some way to someone I met during my JSA days. I also think I am a better attorney because I am able to see all sides of an argument, a skill that was honed in JSA.
Voting is the bedrock of our political system and the ultimate act of self-governance. It’s obvious, but everything that happens politically in our country can be traced back to the decisions made by those who vote.
Compton Unified School District
San Francisco School Board
Congress (39th District - CA)
Claremont City Council
US House of Representatives (CA-41)
Berkeley City Council (candidate)
My passion for service comes from my experience as an immigrant - moving through four countries, two states, and two cities in California before finding a place called Berkeley.
Yet at a time when the difference between the haves and the have-nots is dramatically increasing and working families who purchased their homes decades ago now have trouble making ends meet - this is not a welcome experienced by all.
Issues like addressing the jobs-to-housing imbalance, protecting our West Berkeley community from crime, improving the air quality near the I-80 corridor, and ensuring that the parks, small businesses, schools, and nonprofits that make our district such a special place remain vibrant and solvent are incredibly complex and require local as well as regional solutions. For the last 15 years, I have been successfully working on both - block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, for a Berkeley that we can all call home.
JSA provided the critical foundation to the public service in which I have been engaged since my college days. From learning how to argue and defend your points, to being reminded that others may have a different perspective - and that the best policy solutions stem from the ability to apply the best of all of those perspectives - JSA taught me the fundamentals of governance. Being part of JSA also made me for the first time consider a future in public service - the prospect of working with and for people, which I did as the founder and president of my high school’s JSA chapter and a regional senator - was infectious!
As a newly naturalized citizen, I vividly remember the first election that I was able to vote in - just after I turned 18 as a high school senior! All those get out the vote drives we organized within and outside of our JSA chapter were finally paying off in the form of another young person being able to weigh in about the future of our nation. The power of the vote is one of the most sacred rights in our democracy - and one of the most solemn obligations of its citizenry. By voting, you have the power to influence decisions nationally, statewide, as well as in your local community. Every vote really does make a difference; a recent election in Berkeley came down to just 16 votes! So let’s get out there together and register some more voters, and remember to vote yourself this (and every) November!
OH House of Representatives (42nd District)
CA State Assembly
San Bernardino Board of Supervisors
CA State Assembly
San Francisco Supervisor (D-2)
San Francisco Board of Education
There is no greater equalizer in our society than the strong academic foundation from our public schools. With tremendous achievement gaps along racial and ethnic lines, our public schools are struggling to live up to their traditional promise of enabling all young people to reach their full potential. I have devoted my career to public service, education and civil rights. I have had the opportunity to work in two presidential administrations, most recently as President Obama's HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing. I was Dean of the University of San Francisco School of Law and President of the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund (MALDEF). These jobs prepare me and inspire me to make sure that schoolchildren get the best start possible in our schools.
For me, JSA could not have been better tailored to serve my passion for community service, politics, and government. From attending summer school to co-starting our chapter to attending conventions and events, I was able to develop leadership skills and see government and politics from a close-up vantage point that solidified my choices for a career in public service. As an attorney, I gave up job security in San Francisco to go to Washington DC at a young age. Thinking I would stay two years, I remained for 17 years going from advocacy to the US Senate Judiciary Committee as counsel and then the Clinton Administration leading the federal government's only office solely devoted to immigrant workplace rights. I relish my JSA experiences to this day. The guidance from the Prossers and our faculty and the camaraderie from fellow JSAers are elements of my teen years that have served me well and were fun.
Voting is important. Voting intelligently is essential. Our ancestors died for us to have the right to vote. It is the right that preserves all other rights. We have to have a voice in our local communities, states, and national government. Also important is our voice in government the other 364 days of the year. Writing letters to your representative and to your newspaper helps hold elected officials accountable. So does showing up at meetings and, for some, running for office. As a candidate for School Board this year, I now realize how difficult campaigns are despite being around elected officials for years. All levels of participation are critical to our nation's future. JSA gives young people a great start and I am grateful for my JSA experiences.