Though Pitman High School’s Junior State of America club is fairly new on campus, the group of civically-engaged students is already earning regional recognition.
During a virtual award ceremony held last month, the Pitman JSA club received one of the highest honors a chapter can receive: the Ernest A. Rogers Chapter of the Year Award for Northern California. The achievement comes courtesy of the club’s excellence in five different categories, including political awareness, civic engagement/activism, leadership, community service and JSA participation.
“It’s kind of a big deal for us as a chapter to be recognized for that, and we’re really proud of that achievement,” Pitman JSA advisor Isaac Farhadian said. “The kids are excited.”
This is the second year PHS has had a JSA club on campus, said Farhadian, which aims to promote civic engagement among high schoolers. The non-partisan, student-run organization not only helps the Pride develop leadership skills through activities like debates, but also provides students with the knowledge necessary to ensure they remain actively involved as voters post-graduation.
Pitman’s JSA club stood out from other competing chapters throughout Northern California thanks to the students’ extensive community outreach resume. The group can often be found volunteering with different organizations, such as the Turlock Salvation Army, International Rescue Committee and the Assyrian American Civic Club, to name a few.
In addition, the club has worked to register and pre-register over 250 Pitman students to vote, helped volunteer during political events and provided opportunities at school lunch for other students to become involved. The club also frequently attends JSA events and competitions, and even hosted a Chapter Convention at Pitman for other chapters in the area.
Pitman JSA vice president Micah Littlepage said the club has been a life-changing experience.
“I have made so many new friends and have become so much more civically engaged,” Littlepage said. “Politics has always been important to me, but JSA has helped me expand my viewpoint and translate emotions into actions that actually benefit my community.”
Like Turlock itself, the Pitman JSA club has a wide variety of views and beliefs — something that’s important when it comes to understanding differing opinions during these politically-fueled times, Farhadian said.
“I have students of pretty much every ideology under the sun,” he said. “We’re a pretty eclectic group, and that's one of the cool things about this. When you have kids with different viewpoints, it makes debate more interesting.”
Moving forward, the Pitman JSA club will be considered among nine other chapters for the title of best in the nation. Farhadian knows that no matter what, his students have gone above and beyond to stay informed.
“I’ve been telling the kids since the beginning that if you put the time and the work in, the fruit of your labor will come out positively.”