DOWNEY - Downey High School's Junior State of America (JSA) chapter won the third annual National Civic Impact Award for having the "biggest impact on increasing the level of civic awareness and engagement at their school."Downey was chosen from among 11 finalists, all of which had won the "Chapter of the Year Award" in their area of the country. A panel of judges consisting of trustees of the Junior Statesmen Foundation and JSA alumni reviewed the materials submitted by finalists and Downey took the prize. The South Jersey Homeschoolers JSA chapter finished a close second, with the margin of victory being less than one point. The award was presented at Downey High's Senior Awards Night last week. "My initial reaction was 'unbelievable,'" said Ryan Johnson, a teacher and JSA chapter advisor, upon learning about the award. "But once I reflected some more, I realized how deserving these students were of this honor. Civic engagement never took a back seat to these students' priorities." Judges said they were particularly impressed by the "great strides (students) made to engage local politicians and become more politically active." Downey JSA members attended school board meetings and City Council meetings and hosted a candidates' forum for people running for school board. In winning the award, the Downey chapter will receive a $2,000 grant to continue their civic engagement programs next year and a plaque to be displayed in the school's trophy case. Johnson, the chapter advisor, received a $500 stipend reward. "We are so unbelievably honored to receive this much recognition for our chapter's achievements," said chapter president Andrea Lomeli. "The new levels of membership, outreach and activism our chapter has pursued helped us grow into leaders and we are incredibly grateful that JSA has given us the place to become who we are today." JSA is the largest student-run organization in the world, providing civics education and leadership programs for more than 75 years. The other winners of the state Chapter of the Year Awards were: Ashland High School from Ashland, Mass., Coral Springs Christian Academy from Coral Springs, Fla., Danville High School from Danville, Ky., Hooks High School from Hooks, Tx., Arrowhead High School from Hartland, Wis., Lincoln Park High School from Chicago, Ill., Kofa High School from Yuma, Ariz., University High School from Fresno, Calif., Sunset High School from Portland, Ore., and the South Jersey Homeschoolers from Southern New Jersey.
********** Published: June 16, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 9