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Pitman High civics club wins third state honor
Pitman Civics Award 2023
Members of the Pitman High Junior State of America chapter pose at this year’s JSA Spring State Convention, which took place at the Hilton Oakland Airport Hotel this past weekend (Photo contributed).

For the third time in the club’s history and for the second year in a row, Pitman High School’s Junior State of America (JSA) civics club has won the Ernest A. Rogers Award for best chapter in all of Northern California. JSA is the largest nonpartisan, student-run civics organization in the country and the award is the highest honor a chapter can earn for civic excellence.

“Winning Chapter of the Year for the second time in a row is an amazing accomplishment that the entire JSA team and our advisor, Mr. [Isaac} Farhadian, have worked hard towards all year and we are thrilled to have achieved something so big,” said junior Fiona Sargissian, who is the club’s current vice president and incoming president. “Politics and social issues are of great value to each one of us and being able to put together a year filled with events that has represented this in the best way possible is incredible.”

The honor is awarded to chapters based on five areas, which are political awareness, civic engagement or activism, leadership, community service and JSA participation. This was showcased through Pitman’s student mock elections for the 2022 midterms in September, three election and debate conventions and hosting a myriad of guest speakers from the world of government.

In terms of community service, members volunteered at the Turlock Salvation Army and Turlock Gospel Mission to serve meals to the local homeless population. They also helped tutor and provide emotional support for grieving children at Jessica’s House, while also making contributions to the International Rescue Committee to provide humanitarian relief to resettled refugees across the nation. Additionally, senior Tiana Karr spoke at Turlock’s fentanyl town hall meeting in November, an event that hosted several elected officials and discussed opioid legislation.

“JSA is all about exploring different perspectives on the modern world,” said Andrew Rodriguez, sophomore and incoming vice president. “It's truly valuable to have the opportunity to share our opinions and engage in meaningful discussions and debates about the complex challenges facing our society.”

The club was announced as this year’s winner and were honored at the JSA Spring State Convention, which took place at the Hilton Oakland Airport Hotel last weekend. The club made sure to make the drive up to be able to accept their honors and meet with other students from across the region, an experience that many of the students said they will never forget.

“JSA has helped me meet many new people while expanding my knowledge and offering insights into the world of politics,” said Blake Creamer, freshman and co-debate coordinator. “Winning chapter of the year is a great accomplishment and helps distinguish our chapter’s hard work and determination throughout the year."

Riley Allen, junior and chapter secretary, shared similar sentiments.

“I really had a good time at Spring State and the overall experience and productive dialogue that our school had was really important,” Allen said. “I think finding common ground and understanding one’s viewpoint is an essential part of debating and listening to one another. The schools at Spring State did a great job of conducting all of the thought talks and debates that we had leading to productive and helpful discussions.”

The weekend trip was especially memorable for sophomore Kayla Thompson, who was given a special gavel after being voted Best Speaker for a debate concerning the ethics behind AI generated art.

“Personally, I feel so honored to be awarded a gavel since it represents how I was able to defend my position involving the topic that other JSA members recognized. I definitely enjoyed my experience at Spring State and was able to meet several people from the NorCal region.” Thompson said.

“I’m proud of all the hard work that has been put into making the Pitman JSA chapter into an award-winning civics club,” said Pitman teach and JSA chapter advisor Isaac Farhadian. “The students have been great, and I couldn't be happier for them. We are proud to represent the Central Valley and showcase the immense talent our students have within our region.”