While I’m young, I’ll start today

(I have a guest writer in this edition of my column. She is my 17-year-old daughter Katrina Relos, a senior high school student from San Mateo High School in California. Katrina delivered a powerful and inspiring speech before Filipina leaders from different parts of the world in the Filipina Women’s Network Global Leadership Summit in San Francisco on October 26. This is her message to these women and to you, my dear readers. – Gel Relos)
MANY adults lament that today’s youth has become the “me, mine, and myself” generation.
I confess I was treading that path myself, until I signed up with the Junior State of America (JSA) as my extra-curricular activity in school. This has changed me forever — JSA helped me come out of my shell of apathy, to become interested and engaged in what is going on in our country and in the world.
Motivated, passionate, open-minded: these are the words that describe me now, after joining Junior State of America — the largest student-ran organization in the country.
Founded by Professor E.A. Rogers in the early 1930’s, Junior State of America’s mission is “to strengthen American democracy by preparing high school students for life-long involvement and responsible leadership in a democratic society.”
What has helped youth like me are the conventions held during fall, winter and spring. True to JSA’s vision, these conventions have helped us cultivate our democratic leadership skills. They have trained us to think critically, advocate our own opinions, develop respect for opposing views, and learn to rise above self-interest to promote the public good.
There is no better way of getting the real life government experience than attending  JSA conventions. Three times a year, JSA students from each region gather in a hotel for an overnight debate convention.
In the fall, conventions are filled with congressional-style debates with topics ranging from economy and foreign policies, to pop culture. As participants, we need to research on these different issues, make a stand and prepare our arguments for the debates.
During  the winter convention, JSA has a “simulated congress.” Winter Congress is usually held in a state capitol (for the East Coast, it is in Washington D.C.). During this time, we are split into two houses of congress: the House of Representatives and the Senate.
This exercise gives us the opportunity to experience the complexity and thrill of drafting our proposed bills, debating on them, proposing amendments and voting to pass or reject them. This also teaches us how to “compromise” and get things done in Congress!
Spring State, however, is the most intense convention. Not only do students debate on pressing topics,  it is also when we vote for our JSA state government.
Each Spring State, we elect a new Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the Assembly (also known as the big 3). I feel this is the most important convention because it truly shows us how the election process works.
Students wanting to be in JSA state government declare their candidacy, campaign and make their “constituents” know their platform and programs for JSA. They also engage in debates.
The members of JSA then get to know the candidates vying for office, become fully engaged in evaluating what each has to offer, and vote for the candidates who we think will best serve JSA as our leaders, regardless of “political party.”
The elected officials then “appoint” directors to head different departments. They go through a process of confirmation — just like in real life!
Before JSA, I lacked motivation. I did not care  about what would happen after high school and what job I would get. I did not care about what was happening in the other side of the world. My concern was me, and me alone.
Through JSA, I found in me the drive to succeed in school, pursue a four-year college and help those less fortunate than I am.
JSA has driven me to work hard to be the best I can be, and has helped me find my purpose in life.
Junior State of America has influenced me so much that I want everyone, regardless of economic background, to experience the same motivation I felt after joining JSA.
As the appointed Director for Scholarship Fundraising, I am writing to you today, to seek your assistance in helping other students of my generation turn their lives around as well. You can help send more teens to these leadership conventions through your tax deductible contribution to the scholarship fund.
Please go to this safe and secure link to donate: http://www.stayclassy.org/fundraise?fcid=257971
Please invest in the youth of today. Believe in what we can do for this country and the world. Encourage more Filipino-American high school students, like me, to join these activities.
Money should not be a reason for many teens (whose families may be financially challenged) to not be given the chance to develop their leadership skills and be of service to the community.
Help us to “Be the People” — your future leaders, who will serve you tomorrow. And we wish to start today.
(Katrina Francesca Relos)

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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

Gel Santos Relos
Gel Santos Relos

Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com and www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

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