We Shot for the Stars at Our Los Angeles Fundraiser

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016 @ 6:23PM

We were starstruck last Saturday. Who were the stars? Our incredible students, alumni and JSA advocates. At the California Science Center’s Samuel Oschin Pavilion in Los Angeles, the Junior State of America dined under the space shuttle Endeavour to raise funds for our youth leadership programs.

The night opened with an introduction from Darci Smith, Junior State’s interim CEO, who spoke about the impact she has seen JSA provide to youth across the country since her start at the beginning of the year. Southern California Program Director Meghan Ginley (NorCal ’10) gave recognition to JSA’s supporters and sponsors for the night before introducing her partner in leadership, Southern California Student Governor Chris Alba.

Chris shared his origin story and the impact that JSA has made on many youth just like him. Growing up in a loving family and as the son of Mexican American immigrants, he dreamed of going to an Ivy League school. As a young teen, he found his voice and belief in himself through the Junior State. Knowing what the program did for him, Chris has sacrificed hours to develop his student chapter and state in a commitment that youth should be empowered to develop opinions and learn to respectfully discuss the political issues they cared about. All the hard work paid off—he credits JSA for helping him get into every Ivy League university he applied to.

Jennifer Ferro, President of KCRW, Los Angeles’ leading radio station and NPR affiliate, was in attendance to introduce our featured panel for the night. Ferro moderated an informing conversation on public perceptions of our upcoming elections with Marco Flores, Vice President of News at KMEX Univision and student Tristan Malhotra, Director of Debate for the Southern California Junior State. Ferro and Flores provided insight on the state of legacy media like radio and print and asked provoking questions about how we can better engage youth in democracy. In a climate where 18- to 24-year-olds vote at rates below 25%, many candidates avoid talking about the issues that affect our future because they don’t believe the youth vote matters. Tristan challenged us to speak with courage about the issues that matter most to youth, and gave compelling reasons for why candidates in this upcoming presidential election and elections in the future need youth civic engagement.

Every day, our students dazzle us with their passion and knowledge surrounding the importance of civics in our lives. By the time our fundraising gala ended, together we raised an incredible $225,000 to continue our legacy of impacting and empowering youth.

In the words of Southern California Student Governor Chris Alba, “JSA is a place where we can all fit in.” Thank you to all our supporters that night, who arrived in evening wear or contributed in spirit, to the Junior State’s legacy and future of engaging youth of all backgrounds in respectful and passionate civic education.

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