DOWNEY - Downey seniors Brandon Pineda and Sarah Menendez have not lost their political savvy during the summer break as they attended programs for Junior State of America (JSA), a student organization that endorses political awareness.Pineda, chief-of-staff of the school's JSA chapter, recently spent more than three weeks in Washington, D.C., at Georgetown University for JSA Summer School. Pineda says he chose to attend this program over the ones also held at Stanford and Princeton for a variety of reasons. "I picked Georgetown mainly because it was on the East Coast and in Washington, D.C.," he said. "What makes the Georgetown program different to me is that it had the Speaker's Program in which influential political figures spoke to the students in the program." In his three-week experience thousands of miles away from home, Pineda took a challenging college-level course and said he feels he is a little bit more prepared for what awaits him in college. "I got a taste of the college experience and took an Advanced Placement Government course taught by a professor," he said. Another JSA program for high school students, Menendez attended the Gene Burd Institute on Media and Politics at UCLA on Aug. 9-12 to learn how journalism and politics intermingle. Menendez, Vice President of her school's JSA chapter, has participated in Fall and Spring State conventions and debates at school and says that in the program she learned how politics and the media must coexist in today's society. "[The institute] focused on politics and journalism and how the two worlds coincide," she said. "I see in my future working in the media, being a political analyst, writing about politics or even politics itself. We should learn how to rid ourselves of bias and how to sort that from opinion." Menendez is also the editor-in-chief of The Downey Legend, Downey High School's online newspaper, and hopes these experiences will aid her in the future. "Ultimately, this will help me get more experience in what I want to do later in my life, because you can't go anywhere without prior knowledge," she said. "This will prepare me for the real world and open my eyes to what's out there beyond what I already cover." Although JSA summer programs offer an opportunity to intellectually stimulate its participants, most importantly, they allow students from different cities and states to collaborate and bond, Pineda said. "JSA summer programs exemplify how the club is like a giant family," he said. "The people you meet are people you can relate to by sharing the same passions and having similar mindsets."
********** Published: August 19, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 18