Pilibos Students Shine as Junior State of America Leaders

Alex Pilibos students at JSA
Alex Pilibos students at JSA

Alex Pilibos students at JSA

LOS ANGELES—Rose and Alex Pilibos school junior, Ani Ghazarian, applied for and received the executive cabinet position of Ombudsman for the Southern California Junior State of America.

Pilibos 11th grade student Ani Ghazarian

Pilibos 11th grade student Ani Ghazarian

Founded in 1934, the purpose of JSA is to help high school students acquire leadership skills and the knowledge necessary to be effective debaters and civic participants. It is the largest student run organization in America, consisting of youth who are politically aware and passionate about current events. JSA holds conventions throughout the school year in which students attend to debate on a variety of topics ranging from “Harry Potter vs. Star Wars” to “Is Healthcare a Human Right?”

Ghazarian reluctantly signed up for JSA as a freshman to see what the hype was all about. Little did she know she would be welcomed into the most open-minded and brilliant group of young adults she had ever met. Her feelings of reluctance for the organization were quickly transformed into true passion, as she attended numerous conventions and other JSA events.

This year, JSA sent out its Mid-Year Cabinet applications and announced that it would be accepting applications for a brand new position — Ombudsman. The Ombudsman was described as the person charged with representing the interests of the public. Within JSA, the Ombudsman would be expected to effectively gather feedback from individual JSA members and incorporate it to further decisions made by the Cabinet. Ghazarian was intrigued but not confident about applying for the Executive Department. Her friend, Alex Ivanov, encouraged her to “go big or go home.” Ghazarian decided she had nothing to lose and devoted a weekend to completing and submitting her application. Later that week, Ghazarian received an email informing her that she had been chosen for the position. Proudly, a group of Pilibos students were selected for the JSA Cabinet, and Ghazarian was beyond thrilled to be chosen to work within such an incredible organization.

A Day at JSA

Pilibos 11th grade student Aren Melkonian

Pilibos 11th grade student Aren Melkonian

BY AREN MELKONIAN

Just a hint of nervousness, that is all it starts with. A feeling, one’s heart begins to beat quicker, hands begin to shake, breathing becomes harder to control, and that familiar gouging pain in your stomach. A podium—about 4 feet tall and 36 inches wide—can induce this feeling in anyone, whoever lies in its way. I recall the first time I experienced many of these symptoms. Except, I knew I could conquer them. My hand was trembling, with the decision of raising it or not? Then finally, as if my hand had a mind of its own, it was raised above my head. A woman sitting behind a desk—the moderator—quickly gesticulated the gavel in her hand in my direction. I realized it was pointed at me, what was I thinking!

Here I was everyone looking at me, the moderator wondering if she picked the right person. I had gotten myself into a real predicament, I stood up knowing I had no other decision. That same four-foot box that begun this whole plight would now be the very thing protecting me in front of the thousands of eyes staring at me. I remember standing there for a while, pondering, what would I say? Then it came to me. One word after another it seemed as though all those feelings came out. I said one sentence and immediately everyone comforted me.

“Hello JSAers, please bear with me. This is my first time speaking and I am quite nervous,” I said timidly. What was that noise, were they fans yelling from the crowd? From every corner another person was clapping and chanting me, comforting me, knowing they to had experienced similar situations. Here I was a freshman speaking for my first time at an official podium, on controversial political views, being encouraged by people who did not necessarily agree with me. Soon enough, that podium would become something I conquered. The process of speaking became one that was natural, enjoyable, and rewarding for me.

I remember my first debate like it was only yesterday, three years later, after devoting so much time to this organization, I am now the one who cheers the shy new speaker that reminds me of my very own past. When two people who are not necessarily in an agreement can cheer each other to succeed, true unity is reached. That is what JSA is about!

Aren Melkonian is a junior at Rose and Alex Pilibos school.

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