Graduating Seniors Profile
Friday, April 29th, 2016 @ 10:27PM
We’re pleased to usher in our new class of alumni. In the next couple of months, our graduating class of JSA seniors will be finishing up their finals and preparing themselves for their futures. In this feature, we interviewed several seniors to learn about what they hoped to do next. The future is bright.
Maya Patel, Texas JSA
How do you describe the current work you do at JSA?
Last year, as director of activism for my chapter, my team and I set a foundation to promote our activism activities that continue on today. At the activism department, we created a handbook which outlines all the ways students can get involved and how their chapter can make an impact. It had a lot of success, with many chapters running voter registration drives. We were able to register dozens of voters in a couple of hours.
What’s been your most powerful JSA experience?
Last year, I create a legislative lobbying handbook. At the time, the JSA Speaker of the House presented to the Texas House of Representatives a bill that would allow students exempt from finals to not have to attend school without the school losing attendance funding. We also lobbied other bills that directly affected us, like one that allowed 17-year-olds who would turn 18 by general election to vote at the primaries. One of my proudest moments was when we had a room full of teenagers getting behind the cause at a fundraiser. Our director of public relations promised that if we raised $500 in one hour, she’d walk around with a half-shaven beard at convention.
You’ve had an incredibly productive fall and winter. How is the year wrapping up for you?
As spring season wraps up, I really want to go out with a bang. I want to continue with the activism aspect of JSA. We recently raised $1,125 for an education organization in Kenya called Pangea Network, empowering women and children and keeping them in school.
What’s next for your future past high school?
I ultimately want to go to school for chemistry and stay involved in politics. Something I would like to do in the future is work for the Peace Corps.
Brandon Mojardin, Arizona JSA
How would you describe yourself, and how did you get started with JSA?
As a middle child, I’m often a mediator. I love playing baseball and learning about different cultures. I’m trilingual (English, Spanish, French) and enjoy philosophy. I just hope to achieve the apex version of myself for my well-being and the well-being of others around me.
I joined a little late to the JSA, during my junior year. My teacher started all of JSA in AZ. I didn’t know about it until he had told me.
How has JSA changed your life and opinion on politics?
It was kind of ironic because I was very not into politics before JSA, and my family wasn’t very interested either. My attitude to JSA was very cynical. I didn’t think my opinion or voice made any impact. But my teacher Mr. Goodwin told me about how you don’t have to be 18 to have a political voice. Yes, you can vote at 18, but before that you can start engaging in civics and making a difference by learning about the issues. When I attended my first fall state, that’s when I just fell in love with JSA.
How would you describe the Junior State experience?
The state conventions are the epitome of what JSA stands. I got to witness firsthand students engaging in debates about current issues. It was all student-run, by the students and for the students. That’s what really inspired me to get involved, seeing people take initiative and doing it on their own. My first debate was on the Cuban embargo export.
It’s been like a family. We like to call it a family. We come together two times a year, and we only see each other two times, but the governor and the cabinet talk everyday in the group chats. There’s a great comradery. It’s irreplaceable really. At this past fall state, we even met someone from Italy doing an exchange. In the AZ Summer Institute, a kid from Ohio came. It’s amazing how we meet people from all socioeconomic backgrounds, people from different racial backgrounds, people from the capitol, people from Yuma county, people from Tucson and people from around the country.
We’re looking forward to hearing about your future. What’s next?
As my senior year is coming to an end, I’m starting to feel like I need to make a decision about my career. I’m considering politics, and epidemiology and global health. JSA completely changed my college endeavors. JSA just changed my life. I’ve become more outspoken, I’ve become more notorious for not taking “no” for an answer. I will be attending University of Arizona next.
Steven Bradley, Mid-Atlantic JSA
What has been your JSA experience?
As a freshman, I joined JSA. Before I had joined I wasn’t as outspoken. I was used to speaking in public, but wasn’t so comfortable debating. Now after four years from working in cabinet positions to participating in conventions I’ve turned into someone more willing to participate. I’m more concerned with my political environment than before. Initially I used to avoid it because I wasn’t a political person, and now I finally realize the significance behind politics and developing my own voice.
How has your family supported your JSA experience?
In my family, my dad likes to push me to get new experiences and be around different groups of people. As soon as I got into JSA, I interacted with diverse groups of people, whether it be in political parties or racial identities. It did build my character, building me to be more aware, sensitive and understanding of different lifestyles. I gained more confidence to be around my friends despite the differences of opinion I may have with them.
Tell us about how you rallied your friends and family to experience a JSA summer.
I had interviewed for the summer school program at Georgetown. When I saw the initial price, my parents went crazy. We were wondering how they were going to pay for it. I was introduced to the JSA Classy fundraising and reached out to my support network to help fundraise the amount. A majority of my initial donors were not internet users. I mailed letters out to different people, including my father’s community, people from my church or any other people who already knew me. I got people to donate to me from other states who had never met me through my grandfather, my mom and friends of family friends. When I gave them my mid-session update, some people donated again. After seeing how much it changed and benefited me, I went to Georgetown again the next summer.
What do you hope to do now that you’re graduating?
Most of what I studied in JSA summer schools was coursework in media. I’m currently deciding on universities in D.C. Seeing the power of communications in my fundraising efforts, I hope to study communications while at college. I think it would fit me as I am dedicated, welcoming and energetic.
Stephanie Brito, Southeast JSA
How would you introduce yourself to our JSA community?
I joined JSA my freshman year. I was really involved with my chapter, and I debated a lot. In the beginning I would carry a notebook everywhere. If I didn’t speak, I would take notes on the new topics to learn more about them. At the time I didn’t know anything about politics except that there was a president and there was a congress.
Why did you continue pursuing JSA as an extracurricular?
I went to JSA Summer School at Princeton because I wanted to spend my time learning instead of sitting around all summer doing nothing. I studied international relations. Sometimes I was bored at school throughout the year, but I found the college course at Princeton interesting because it was more advanced.
What else are you involved in at school?
The school newspaper. My first article was about what I learned in JSA, and wrote on international relations. Later I got an internship at the newspaper The Miami Herald. Not only did JSA help develop my skills in writing a story and research, but it gave me background information. I eventually became director of debate for my chapter.
While at the newspapers, I remained involved with JSA. I ran for office in the Southeast region, and was elected lieutenant governor despite never being on cabinet before. I wanted to help make JSA better.
What are you passionate about, and what does the future look like for you?
As the daughter of Cuban immigrants, Spanish was my first language. While at JSA, I worked really hard to get out scholarships to students who couldn’t afford to otherwise attend conventions and summer school, and make sure JSA was as inclusive as possible. If someone didn’t feel safe in a debate environment, I let them know that they could come to me. I wanted to make sure people wouldn’t use racist language. There are things I have to deal with that I didn’t want them to experience.
I have been accepted to Harvard, MIT, Yale, Princeton and Stanford. I will be a first generation college student. I am a Gates Millennial Scholar, which I’m very happy and grateful for because it has been a goal of mine since freshman year to be accepted. I hope the future includes spending a lot of time with friends and going on adventures, and I am interested in biology, cognitive science, neuroscience and research.
These students had their lives changed by the Junior State of America and our student leadership opportunities. We’re proud of our graduating students, and thank them for all they have done for their JSA chapters and regions. We’re looking forward to hearing more about what they’ll accomplish in their inspiring futures!