In fall 2013, CIRCLE partnered with the Junior State of America (JSA), a national organization with student-led chapters throughout the country. Students in JSA participate in a range of activities including debates, ‘thought talks’, and simulations. JSA’s student leaders, who are elected by fellow JSA members, also plan regional and national conventions, conferences, and political engagement events.
CIRCLE analyzed results of the JSA 2013 Student Census, a survey administered to over 1,700 high school students who participated in JSA’s 2012-13 summer and school year programs. According to CIRCLE’s analysis of student survey data, the students reported that the JSA programs had a profound and lasting impact on them.
- Civic knowledge: Over 75% of students reported that their JSA participation improved their knowledge of domestic issues and foreign affairs, as well as their understanding of how government works.
- Civic skills: Over two-thirds of JSA members said JSA participation improved their skills in writing research papers and conversing with adults. Over half said they’ve improved their ability to speak up in class.
- Civic behaviors: JSA students said they were much more likely to volunteer, keep up with current events, and participate in political behaviors (like voting, boycotting, and discussing politics) in the future, compared to the past few years.
Perhaps most striking is that JSA is especially beneficial for groups that are traditionally underrepresented in civic or political life:
- Female students were ten percentage points more likely than males to report improved ability to speak up in class (65.3% to 55.4%).
- Students whose parents possess less than high school-level education were more likely to report that JSA improved their skills in reading and understanding current events (63.0%) when compared to peers whose parents possessed some college education.
- Students receiving free/reduced-price school lunches were the most likely to report improvement in their ability to converse with adults (81.4% compared to 72.1% of non-recipients).
- Black students were the most likely to report feelings of political efficacy—from their ability to identify groups or individuals that could help, to organizing petitions or calling a stranger to ask for help on a problem.
The students’ reports of impressive growth have clear implications for models throughout the education system, both for underserved communities and more broadly.
This post is cross-posted from Junior State of America.