SPF Junior State of America provides a space for students to discuss politics, current events


Amit Deshpande

2020 has served as a political awakening for young Americans, and many of them are looking for a place to voice their opinions on the pressing issues of today. The Junior State of America is a national and nonpartisan organization that gives high school students an opportunity to voice their opinion on various political and social issues and offers a multitude of local, regional and national leadership opportunities. Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual meets, the SPF chapter of JSA has held consistent weekly meetings on various current issues and debate topics, including an election-themed one prior Election Day. 
“In our world today, there is so much partisanship that some think it is impossible to have a conversation with ‘the other side,’” senior Ezri Abraham said. “At JSA, we are trying to fight this negative, counterproductive disease that plagues the citizens of our nation. By using our specially-designed code of conduct, we are able to facilitate conversations between those with drastically different views, and hopefully make our country a little less divided.”
SPFJSA has also focused heavily on the election cycle this year, holding voter registration drives and a school-wide mock election virtually. These are all part of a larger effort to bring civic duty to the student body, especially to those who aren’t as heavily involved in politics.
“We want to de-stigmatize talking about politics by providing a space that encourages healthy conversation and avoids non-productive confrontation so that new members aren’t intimidated by political drama,” Abraham said.
SPFJSA is also involved in bringing local politics closer to students. In past years, SPFJSA has invited Scotch Plains Mayor Al Smith many times to speak about the downtown Scotch Plains redevelopment plans. SPFJSA has also invited representatives of the US Census in order to bring more awareness about the significance of filling out the Census. 
The Junior State is also a larger regional and national organization that holds overnight conventions in New Jersey, along with a Mid-Atlantic State Winter Congress in Washington DC. Winter Con is a weekend where students carry out roles of House representatives and Senators and debate various bill proposals with other JSA students in the MAS region. They also have a chance to tour Washington DC, as well as listen to keynote speakers live.
“Last year, JSA was honored to have the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg be our guest speaker,” Abraham said. “The excitement in the air was like no other. When Justice Ginsburg spoke, she called on us, as the leaders of the future, to stand up for what we believe in and continue the work that she pursued to her last day. It was truly a moment that inspired all of us that weekend.”
SPFJSA meets every Thursday at 3:30 PM on a Google Meet that can be accessed via the JSA Google Classroom (code: 7c3vv6f).