JSA practices legislative simulation at Winter Congress

By Joel Ayala & Colin Walker

On February 4 and 5, the Junior State of America (JSA) held the 2023 Southern California and Arizona Winter Congress Convention. Over 300 students experienced a legislative environment in writing, debating, and voting on bills. During the convention, JSA members attended committee meetings, offered amendments, and debated proposed ideas. In addition to bill writing, participants explored other ways to implement change, including service, community building, and more.

JSA is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping students gain a better understanding of the legislative process, gain leadership skills, and debate on contemporary issues in our society today. It also helps students create and develop new relationships with other students who have similar and different opinions.

The keynote speakers for the 2023 JSA Winter Congress were the founders of Diversify Our Narrative, Jasmine Nguyen, Katelin Zhou and Executive Director of Outreach and Partnerships Julianna Garcia. Diversify Our Narrative’s mission is to fight to be anti-racist and encourage a productive dialogue on race and identity among student bodies through the inclusion of racially diverse, anti-racist texts in USA Schools. As an organization, they work towards racial justice, educational equity, and community power.

Winter Congress is different from other conventions as a party caucus is held for each political party, including Democrat, Libertarian, Republican, and Socialist. Each party consisted of two party whips who ensured that members voted according to what the party believes.
Over the course of two days, committee hearings took place discussing a variety of different topics. Some of these topics included education, sexual assault prevention, guns and arms distributions, and criminal reform. During these committee hearings, bills were introduced and members were briefed on the bill.

Pro and con speakers offered opposing arguments, and people from the audience volunteered to subsequently speak to support either side. Once everyone was done speaking, the room voted on whether or not the bill passed, as well as the best speaker of the discussion to receive a best speaker gavel.

“At the convention when discussing a topic, everyone in the room is briefed on the bill that is going to be debated and then members that are arguing for pro and con are introduced to the room,” senior and Director of Social Media Mona Tazhibi said.

During the convention, participants were given a chance to speak their minds. That is one of the features of JSA that members find the most attractive. Nonpartisanship, one of JSA’s core values, was upheld throughout the convention, to promote the idea of accepting beliefs and values from all over the political spectrum.

The environment that the event creates allows all members to be engaged in the variety of topics that push them outside their comfort zones.

“I feel I definitely had a voice at the convention as everyone makes it easy to share your own opinion whether people agree or not,” senior Aydan Foong Chong said.

On top of debates, advocacy serves as the backbone of JSA and gives students the network and tools necessary to begin their own initiatives in the future. During the political fair, many organizations, such as the CA Young Republican Federation, Animal Outlook, and Plan International USA, sent representatives to promote their purpose and mission.

“I think this convention can have a real world impact as the passion of students could lead them to become the next leaders in our political system,” Foong Chong said. “Young students learning new perspectives on topics can shift their opinion, making them vote differently in the future or convince others of different mindsets.”

Author: Plaid Press

Granada Hills Charter High School newspaper