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Pitman’s JSA named best in the nation
Pitman JSA
Pitman High’s Junior State of America chapter received a visit and certificate of recognition from Stanislaus County Board Supervisor Vito Chiesa last week after they were named the winners of the prestigious National Civic Impact Award (Photo contributed).

A month after winning their fourth Ernest A. Rogers Award in five years for being the best chapter in Northern California, the Pitman High School’s Junior State of America has been recognized as the best chapter in the United States.

Last week, Pitman JSA was announced as the 2024 National Civic Impact Award winner, recognizing them as the chapter that has had the biggest impact on increasing the level of civic awareness and engagement at their school. It is the first time the student-organization has won the award.

The Chapter of the Year is judged by a panel, which may include JSA staff, JSA student leaders and teacher/advisors, who review a 6-8 minute video, voice narrated slideshow or slideshow with accompanying documents to their State Director describing the chapter’s achievements accompanied by photos, videos, press clippings, text, charts and any other audio/visual aids that help to convey the chapter’s achievements.

“I'm proud of the wonderful things the Pitman High Chapter has achieved this year,” said Pitman AP U.S. government and economics teacher, Isaac Farhadian, who serves as JSA advisor.

This past year, Pitman JSA has held multiple after-school debate conventions where hundreds of students came together to discuss and debate salient issues affecting the community and country. They also attended state conventions where students have earned JSA gavels for best speakers multiple times.

Officers this year were chapter president and JSA Central Valley region mayor Fiona Sargissian, debate coordinators Blake Creamer and Madiha Haideri, vice president Andrew Rodriguez, secretaries Riley Allen and Isabella Ford, treasurer Jeffrey Kern and social media coordinator Kayla Thompson.

"This year both the officers and members have put tremendous effort into every single debate con and event we've held. This national recognition is a testament to all our hard work, and I am honored to be leading us into the future,” said Creamer, who will serve as chapter president next school year.

“What I am most proud of is how our chapter has helped uplift students who were shy, giving them a voice and allowing them to step out of their comfort zone,” Farhadian said. “Over the years, some of the most successful officers have been students who started off shy but found empowerment through JSA to become effective public speakers. I also want to give a huge shout-out to all the officers from previous years who have helped build this chapter into a national chapter of excellence. Their names are many, and their contributions invaluable.”

"For me, being in JSA isn't just about the debates, it's about uplifting and impacting those within the community,” added Ford. “JSA is a great opportunity for people to reach outside their comfort zones head on while also being supported by others that are going through that same journey."

National Civic Impact Award winners are given an engraved plaque honoring the chapter, a $500 stipend reward given to the chapter advisor, and a  $2,000 grant to the chapter to continue their civic impact and engagement projects.

"Pitman H.S. JSA Chapter sets an incredible example for all of our chapters,” said Dr. Andee Steinman of the JSA Chief of Staff. “The advisor and students that comprise Pitman's chapter live the mission of JSA every day. They participate in our leadership opportunities and conventions, but more than that, they contribute to their community, participate in local political activities and make an impact in all they do."

The club received certificates of recognition from several local dignitaries, including Stanislaus County Board Supervisor Vito Chiesa, U.S. Representatives John Duarte (CA-13) and Tom McClintock (CA-5).

"This is such a significant accomplishment for Pitman High School scholars and teacher/advisor, Isaac Farhadian, whose leadership has created a level of engagement and opportunity for students to develop civic awareness that includes politics, activism, leadership and community service,” said Turlock Unified School District Superintendent Dana Trevethan. “Scholars’ participation in these opportunities will undoubtedly contribute to the success of our community and beyond."

“Our students have worked so hard these past years to learn about civic education and how to be the voice to make a difference in their future,” added Pitman High principal Angela Freeman. “I am so proud of the commitment of our students and advisor, Mr. Farhadian, have had with JSA. Throughout this past year, there have been many opportunities for students to engage in current event debates to share their thinking with supporting evidence. The life-long lessons that they have learned through this club will carry them on into their future as they become young adults who are making decisions for the people.”