HOUGHTON - In a political environment where opposing parties are frequently at loggerheads over the most basic issues, students at Houghton High School's Junior State of America are working to promote political awareness in future voters.
A subset of the national non-partisan group, the JSA club strives to engage students in politics, regardless of party affiliation. Although members meet weekly to discuss current events and debate local and national policy decisions, the student-run group also organizes events for students and the public. The club currently has 13 members - more than double last year's membership total - who are actively involved in planning events.
"We got lucky that this was an election year," said Carrie Karvakko, the JSA advisor. "The club held mock elections in which students from grades 9-12 voted on Election Day as well as registered eligible students to vote in national and state elections."
Club membership offers the opportunity to attend various JSA conferences around the country. First-year member Wynter Bethel recalled a positive experience at a conference in Madison, Wis., where she was able to connect with other members of JSA clubs from the Midwest.
"I was really overwhelmed by how much perspective it gave me," Bethel said. "As a young person it is very easy to get stuck in your own world, but these issues are important and it was encouraging to see so many students who care. Political apathy is a problem in young people and to meet people who are looking for solutions and to actively become responsible citizens is great."
Four members of the Houghton club look forward to attending a similar conference in March, this time in Washington, D.C. At the conference they will be able to participate in a mock-Congress as well as tour political landmarks, including the White House and Lincoln Memorial.
The JSA will hold a free screening of the film "All The President's Men" at 7 p.m. tonight in the Houghton High School auditorium. Saturday it will host a pancake breakfast, the proceeds of which will go toward funding the trip to D.C. The breakfast will run from 8 a.m. to noon at Houghton Elementary School. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for children 12 and younger, and free for kids 4 and younger.
"They have definitely made me be more energetic when it comes to politics." Karvakko said. "They make me want to be involved. They are just a great group of kids."
Students interested in JSA can visit jsa.org for more information on the organization and how to launch a chapter in their own schools.