Our Council of Governors
Thursday, March 31st, 2016 @ 10:35AM
While spring is just starting to bloom, our student governors are knee-deep in making a difference in their JSA chapters, states and national cohort after a winter of deep planning. This past winter, JSA’s 2015-2016 student governors came together for their last Council of Governors’ meeting for this graduating class in Washington, D.C.
Throw a group of high schoolers in a room together, and you might eventually find them eagerly brainstorming solutions to change their world for the better. If they’re JSA youth at a Council of Governors’ meeting, it’s surely certain.
Ohio River Valley Governor Charles Zhang bundled up in his gloves and scarf. Raised in the Midwest, he was used dealing with snow and 20 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. “It’d be nice to move to California though. I don’t really like the cold,” he laughed gently.
Charles spent part of this past winter in Washington, D.C. with nine other JSA students from around the country. It was a purposeful trip, and not your average teenager’s vacation—our student governors were meeting in the nation’s capitol to discuss important legislation, policy and their student leadership service projects.
“In addition to being able to discuss how states have been doing, my favorite part of winter council is hearing the ideas and initiatives that other students are putting out,” Charles explains. “It’s really eye-opening to see how other states are working with civic engagement among youth.”
Winter council is the last time our student governors can meet in person to plan out their goals for the rest of the year. It’s also an unique moment for them to connect with their peers and JSA’s national mission. In a few days during the Council of Governors’ meeting, our student leaders represent the opinions of youth from all over the country and of all races, genders, income bracket levels, political ideologies, personal beliefs and urban, suburban or rural identities.
This sharing of diverse experiences is crucial to supporting the JSA mission of engaging all youth in politics and respectful dialogue towards the greater good. For many of our students, the experience is eye-opening because JSA is the first place where they develop connections and memories with peers from different backgrounds. It also makes for amazing and deep friendships that last a lifetime.
“Outside of our goal setting activities, my favorite part of council was being able to ice skate with the rest of the governors,” Charles shared on the teambuilding that happened over the winter. “We were able to socialize and have fun spending the entire day making JSA better.”
This making JSA better conversation included work on goals that the governors set out to accomplish at the beginning of their terms. Fall state, where students spoke on issues like lowering the voting age and gun control, saw year-over-year attendance increases in seven out of JSA’s ten regions. Students made waves in their fundraising efforts, surpassing the national record for fundraising set in previous years to break their incredible new goal of $100,000 to provide more scholarships for extraordinary youth who simply can’t attend overnight conventions without financial support.
Our governors’ conversations also included voter registration drives that they’ve held throughout the year, and the most recently launched Fight Apathy campaign. Charles has been particularly excited about Fight Apathy, where chapters across the country have registered to get the youth voice heard and felt. “I’m actually super happy right now because Ohio is 3rd in the nation for chapters registered with Fight Apathy, and we’re one of the smaller states.” With the variety of JSA programs that students engage in, each state and student leader has found a space to advocate on the issues important to them.
“I feel really good about the rest of the year,” said Charles. “Being able to help everyone is what we’re going to focus on.” There are three Council of Governors’ meetings every year, starting with one in May where new governors announced out of the spring elections first convene and set goals to achieve throughout their yearly term. Said Charles, “By the end of the year, I think we’re going to be really proud of the amount of work we’ve accomplished.” We think so too.
Our amazing Council of Governors is a reminder that the future of our country is in the hands of our young people, and we’re looking forward to seeing what else they’ll achieve as they wrap up the rest of this school year.