What is JSA?

by Annie Watson 

Why is Annie Watson writing this? Everyone knows JSA is to be mentioned in vague yet incessant gathering announcements, not to be understood!

These are fair points, but bear with some radical idealism for a moment: what if we lived in a world in which JSA could be understood? What if its promotion consisted of more than pieces of printer paper with “JSyAy!” scribbled on them? Why is Annie Watson writing this? Easy, there are, like, three things I’m passionate about, and JSA is one of them. Because of this, I think it would benefit the student body to know what JSA is.

Article’s gonna go like this in case you wanna skip ahead to something:
What is JSA?
Who Might Enjoy JSA?
What are JSA Conventions Like?
A Purely Objective and Unbiased JSA / MUN Comparison
JSA Testimonials

What is JSA?

JSA stands for Junior State of America. It’s a non-partisan political youth organization.

“The Junior State of America (JSA) was created by and for young people interested in what happens around them – from politics, to how government works, and contributing to their community. Since its founding in 1934, JSA has served as a place where students build leadership skills, learn civil debate, and strengthen their engagement through volunteering and activism. More than 500,000 students have graduated high school as more active, informed members of their community as a result of their participation in JSA.”

Think MUN, but just about America, more freedom/choice in your schedule at conferences, and no essays.

Who Might Enjoy JSA?
You would (very likely) enjoy JSA if you:

  • are interested in U.S. politics
  • want to get out of the house for a weekend
  • ‘d like to understand how the government works
  • want to meet people your age with similar (or different) political views
  • want free Domino’s, Panda Express, Red Robin, or Sonic
  • are interested in debate (participating, spectating, or both)
  • are into deep, philosophical conversations
  • want to attend a dance with more people than OES ones
  • like dressing up in Western business attire or wildly patriotic attire
  • want to learn more about current events
  • like practicing informed decision-making
  • appreciate learning things that have real-life applications
  • are interested in MUN, Debate team, and/or Mock Trial, but don’t want to or can’t commit a ton of time to involvement
  • like staying in hotels
  • would like to attend an Activism Fair and learn about ways to help the community in a way you’re genuinely interested in (and perhaps turn it into an OES-required service project)
  • want to formulate political views or (further) define your political beliefs
  • would enjoy an evening at an arts and crafts table whilst talking about the ethics of the death penalty, abortion, U.S. prison conditions, border control, or anything you want to bring up
  • want to attend a humor debate (ex: Resolved, Polygamous Marriages Should be Legalized, Resolved, That in a Fight, Obama Would Beat Paul Ryan)
  • agree with any of the above, and want a respected extracurricular activity on your college apps

What are JSA Conventions?

Overnight weekend conventions at a hotel in Portland or Seattle (the city alternates every other convention). We arrive Saturday morning and leave Sunday afternoon. Transportation is provided by OES JSA faculty advisor, Kati Stenstrom, who also chaperones. There are 3 conventions a year: Fall State, Winter Congress, and Spring State.

Fall and Spring State conventions: Daytime events include a myriad of debates, thought talks, mock trials, and a political activism fair (where real-life organizations set up stands and will give you snazzy political stickers/pins). Nighttime events include the ABC debates (impromptu and really fun), the Mr. and Mrs. JSA Contest, and a dance (casual clothing, think OES’ Homecoming Dance, but more people, and no dance moves are banned). There are always around 4+ debates going on during the same block, so you get to choose which one you want to go to.

Winter Congress convention: Daytime events are structured similar to the U.S. Congress. Students are divided into Senate and House of Representative committees. Student delegates present bills (serious or satirical) in these committees, which are then voted on. Nighttime events are the same as Fall/Spring State. (Winter Congress was the 1st JSA conference I ever attended and I how I got hooked).

Here’s the agenda from the most recent conference, Spring State 2019 (debate topics start on page 9).

A Purely Objective and Unbiased JSA / MUN Comparison

Disclaimer: I, President of OES JSA, harbor no ill will towards OES MUN. The purpose of this comparison is to highlight a few key differences between the two organizations, that may or may not showcase JSA’s chiller, freer aspects.

The Facts Model United Nations Junior State of America
# of Essays You Have to Write to Attend a Conference 2 0
Days of School You’ll Have to Miss and Make Up For 2 0
Conference Attendance Provides the Opportunity to Witness Shiloh and Charlie Recreate the Iconic Dirty Dancing (1987) Lift No Yes


Charlie H. ‘21, PoBo Representative and OES JSA Vice President says: “JSA provides a wonderfully unique experience for those interested in politics and government. There is vibrant and enriching debate on everything from school dress codes to prison reform to millennial socialism, and civically engaged students from all around the Pacific Northwest have the opportunity to come together and hash out discussions on important and interesting issues. Between even the staunchest of conservative libertarians and most firm democratic socialists, I’ve seen the culture of listening and compromise that JSA creates bring people together to build both bipartisanship and lifelong friendships. In this era of increased political polarization and unwillingness to compromise, JSA is bringing future leaders together and creating a political climate that will help America thrive.”

Shiloh D. ‘21, former OES JSA President says: “I enjoy JSA so much because it offers an opportunity to grow, hear new opinions and allow yours to be heard, and for everyone to walk away with new knowledge.”

Rasley L. ‘22, OES JSA Treasurer says: “JSA is a place where you can interact with hundreds of passionate high schoolers. It is indeed a great place to learn, but the energy that the students bring in is truly amazing. The discussions that I had during the conference tackled a variety of topics – some I previously knew, others I didn’t. Whether I knew the topic or not, it was interesting to listen to people passionately argue and advocate for their opinion. I strongly recommend JSA for people who want to learn about different topics in a positive environment. I still remember the energy that the students carried in at the conference.”

Graham O. ‘18, OES JSA Alumnus says: “What I loved most about JSA was the combination of friends hanging out and serious discussion about politics; it’s a focused event, but there’s still lots of time for fun.”

Annie W. ‘21, OES JSA President says: “JSA is a curious person’s dream. If you’re on the fence about trying it out, I recommend you do. It’s the best decision I’ve made in high school.”

To join OES JSA, visit our official webpageThanks for reading!