2015-2016 marks the tenth year of John Burroughs High School Junior State of America. This year they are celebrating their decennial by continuing the important work of civic education.
In August 2014, the California Task Force on K-12 Civic Learning released Revitalizing K-12 Civic Learning in California: A Blueprint for Action. Burroughs JSA participated in the creation of this document. Burroughs JSA has been implementing many of the recommendations in the document and continues to do so.
Civic Engagement is the one way that every single citizen in this country can seek to improve their community, their own lives, and the lives of those around them.
Burroughs JSA has hosted an extensive speakers program. Speakers have included: California Secretary of State Debra Bowen; State Controller John Chiang; Board of Equalization Member Betty Yee; Congressman Adam Schiff; Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich; State Senator Carol Liu; State Assemblymen Mike Gatto and Matthew Harper; Beverly Hills Mayor Barry Brucker; Cudahy Mayor Jack Guerrero; Burbank City Council Members Gary Bric, Dave Golonski and David Gordon: Burbank City Clerk Zizette Mullins; Glendale City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian; Anthony Portantino, USC Jesse M. Unruh School of Politics; Dan Schnur, Director, USC Jesse M. Unruh School of Politics; and Loyola Law Professor Laurie Levenson. The Speaker Series will continue this year.
As elections are crucial in a democracy, in 2012 and 2014 Burroughs JSA hosted mock elections where high students voted for President and state offices as part of the California Secretary of State’s MyVote event, while simultaneously registering high school students to vote as they turn 18. Burroughs JSA continues to register young voters.
Burroughs JSA has promoted civic engagement in the community by hosting a candidate’s forum for Burbank Unified School District School Board in 2013. The forum provided an unprecedented opportunity for students to exchange ideas with every candidate running to oversee their school district.
In April 2014, Burroughs JSA conducted a mock city council meeting debating the issue of Walmart locating to Burbank in the actual Burbank City Council Chamber. In the fall of 2014 Burroughs JSA screened “Valentine Road” at the Colony Theatre in Burbank. This screening was open to high school students as well as members of the community and was followed by a student-moderated discussion.
When not hosting a guest speaker or hosting civic engagement events, each Thursday at lunch, Burroughs JSA hosts debates. The debate topics are chosen by students, debated by students, and managed by students. The topics range the gambit of current issues, from the legality of gay marriage to abortion to foreign policy issues. These debates give students a chance to have a voice in a civil and positive forum. This has led to the motto of Burroughs JSA, “Don’t Hate. Debate.”
Burroughs JSA has also given back to those in need. They have raised to date over $4,000 for Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times through their annual fundraising drive. Burroughs JSA will continue to give back in 2015-2016.
During the past decade Burroughs JSA has twice won the Southern California Junior State of America Chapter-of-the-Year (2011-2012 and 2013-2014) and twice won the National Civic Impact Award (2011-2012 and 2013-2014). In May 2013 Burroughs Junior State of America was awarded the Civic Learning Award of Merit by California Judicial Council and the California Department of Education. One of only 22 secondary school in the entire state to win a Civic Learning Award.
The Junior State of America (JSA) is the nation’s oldest and largest student-run youth organization. As a non-partisan organization, JSA has been dedicated to educating high schools students across the country about the institutions of democratic society, and for the last 75 years, Junior State has not only brought high school students together to debate and discuss important issues, but has fostered these concepts by giving students the resources to learn through real-life leadership opportunities.
The chapter of Junior State of America located at John Burroughs High School in Burbank, CA has worked hard these past ten years to provide opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders to gain the skills they need today.