JSA State: Midwest
What has your chapter done to help your local community and/or beyond?
In our chapter, we discuss important topics like race and implicit biases. Our chapter prioritizes creating a safe space to discuss our own perspectives and experiences and listen to others that foster effective and productive discourse.
One way we have done so is through hosting guest speakers from the ACLU, local government, nonprofits, and local universities opening these forums to all students (regardless of their membership) who seek to educate themselves about the issues in our community and how we can best address them.
Within our chapter, we make an effort to understand our ideologies by taking bias and belief tests, discussing complex and sensitive topics like race and discrimination, and watching educational material to be a part of the movement for racial equality in our community country. We also get involved in the community by attending local government board meetings and publicizing and participating in community service events, like our local Feed My Starving Children and as high school election judges.
How has your chapter been active as representatives of JSA?
Our chapter acts as active representatives of JSA with consistent communication on our chapter’s social media, through which we frequently share our chapter’s progress and activities. We also encourage non-JSA members to participate in chapter activities to allow all students to educate themselves while promoting JSA awareness.
We have partnered with other organizations such as the True Justice League (TJL) to spread the important messages both our organizations have to offer across high schools. Additionally, Schaumburg JSA is currently the only chapter in our district, so we serve as an example for future JSA chapters. We encourage peers in other high schools to potentially begin their own chapters. Within our school and during recruitment drives, we have distinguished JSA by publicizing its unique features, such as its nonpartisan and non-competitive nature. And in our community, we have represented JSA through public events like our town’s annual parade. Although it is only our second year, we have maintained our commitment to the JSA community by sending new members to the Midwest JSA Cabinet.
How does your chapter work to increase participation and spread awareness of JSA?
Schaumburg JSA works to increase participation and spread awareness by maximizing our guest speaking events' recruitment opportunities, which have higher attendance, spread awareness of JSA in our community, and can draw in new members. We also spread awareness through social media, which we use to publicize all the fun, engaging, and educational activities we offer to members while maintaining our approachable presence to those interested in JSA.
Since our chapter is fairly new, one of our goals has been expanding our membership, and we often emphasize using personal recruitment to our members. We believe the latter is incredibly important as it fosters enduring personal friendships, regardless of the age, experience, or political convictions of those in our chapter. It has undoubtedly made us a tight-knit group. Even online, we have maintained virtual communication and are sure to make time to enjoy each others’ company.
We also increased participation in major JSA conventions; our chapter is attending the (2021) Winter Congress for the first time this year, even producing a bill.
How does your chapter encourage the non-partisan aspect of JSA to help students feel comfortable to speak and to be active?
At Schaumburg JSA, we are committed to creating safe spaces for students to discuss political matters regardless of one’s party affiliation. One way we stay true to this principle is by inviting nonpartisan guest speakers—both conservative and liberal—to discuss their organizations and beliefs.
This year, our speakers were a reproductive rights lawyer and a representative of our state Rifle Association, who discussed topics that can often be polarizing. However, Schaumburg JSA does not shy away from these controversial but important topics in debates and thought talks, whether about health care, gun control, socialism, and reproductive rights.
While many have strong opinions, we can preserve decorum in these debates and maintain our respect for each other. This year we also hosted multiple watch parties to observe and discuss our nation’s political processes—such as elections, impeachment trials, and inaugurations—but made sure to utilize media platforms that fall on both sides of the spectrum doing so.