JSA State: Ohio River Valley
What has your chapter done to help your local community and/or beyond?
Fairfield JSA is passionate about both community engagement and youth participation in democracy. Fairfield JSA kicked off the year by hosting a voter registration drive leading up to the 2020 election to put this in action. While JSA debate topics typically focus on federal issues, we also encourage Fairfield delegates to engage with down-ballot politicians and issues. We include the contact information of our representatives in our weekly PowerPoints and urge delegates to contact their representatives about issues that matter to them. Regarding our immediate community, we held a canned food drive dedicated to a Cincinnati homeless shelter.
We also recently held a winter coat drive for the same shelter and delivered them during the recent spell of cold weather. Coming up, Fairfield JSA plans to visit the Underground Railroad Freedom Center, a nearby museum that, while following COVID-19 protocol, educates visitors about both American slavery and modern-day human trafficking.
How has your chapter been active as representatives of JSA?
Our chapter has been active representatives of JSA by hosting weekly meetings, hosting a chapter mini-con before the election, and participating in state and national initiatives such as nominating a Chapter Member of the Month. Fairfield JSA also communicates with their Sister Chapter, Lakota East, and hopes to host a meeting with them soon collaboratively.
Fairfield also hosted a campaign season for chapter leadership to promote leadership opportunities within JSA and make state and national opportunities (like cabinet and summer school) known to all delegates.
How does your chapter work to increase participation and spread awareness of JSA?
Every day on the morning announcements, JSA’s most recent debate resolution, and the final vote is announced, and the upcoming meeting topic is subsequently promoted. Therefore, Fairfield students hear about JSA every day on the announcements, and they also see posters around the school for whatever initiative or event is approaching. Because of the increased awareness of JSA, weekly attendance has greatly increased: in fact, most meetings now have over 35 attendees.
To increase participation, Fairfield JSA hosts occasional satire debates so that delegates will feel comfortable around each other and view JSA as a safe space to be themselves and use their voice. Additionally, we recently began concluding debates with thoughts talks over the resolution. Thought talks incite productive and passionate conversation among even the quietest of delegates. By the end of the meeting, almost every person in the room has spoken.
How does your chapter encourage the non-partisan aspect of JSA to help students feel comfortable to speak and to be active?
Fairfield promotes non-partisanship by alternating between liberal and conservative phrasing of resolutions (so that neither side is deemed pro or con), ensuring delegates are respectful of those who disagree with them, and finding nuance disagreement within parties. To promote a welcoming environment, officers and delegates alike will sometimes speak for a side they disagree with. This helps shed light on underrepresented viewpoints, encourages others to speak out on their views even if they feel outnumbered, and gives each side a worthy argument. Because our chapter does lean left, we also work to find disagreement among those on the left. For example, this week, we are discussing decriminalization vs. legalization of marijuana. By digging deeper into the specifics of policy, we promote nuanced conversation and turn an otherwise one-sided debate into a contentious discussion.