“English is the art of communication and persuasion,” Kip Morales, English teacher at Alliance Smidt Tech High School in Lincoln Heights, likes to say. “We try to get scholars to take their communication skills into the community; this allows them to find their voice and to understand that they can be an agent for change.”
With that in mind, Morales started a Junior State of America chapter at his school, so scholars could unite to overcome apathy in their community and create civic change.
The JSA scholars from across the Alliance network have already taken the wheel and catalyzed real local improvements. The chapter wrote and presented a report to the city council that helped Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren D. Price Jr. push a bill to decriminalize street vending. The report “received great praise from the council because of its comprehensiveness,” Morales said.
The mighty team of JSA scholars also helped Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson build a case for District 8 cleanup. After scholars rode buses and took pictures of debris along their commute, they submitted recommendations through the MyLA311 app. Thanks to their involvement, this project climbed quickly in priority and launched a cleanup of their district.
The dedicated teachers and leaders at each Alliance school’s chapter do more than provide scholars with a chance to flex their political voice; they give scholars opportunities and soft skills to be successful leaders. Through JSA, scholars are able to interact with other students with different backgrounds and life experiences. By finding common ground, they work together on issues that can better communities.
Kip Morales was awarded Alliance Teacher of the Year in 2014 and presently serves on the board of directors for the Junior State of America Foundation. He first introduced JSA to Alliance in 2012; the club is now active in at least ten Alliance high schools. Aided by his leadership, the Neuwirth Leadership Academy High School won the JSA National Civic Impact Award for 2014.