At least 14 Pickerington High School North students next month will travel to Washington, D.C. where they'll model Congress and seek to influence the nation's lawmakers.
Feb. 15-17, the students will join peers from throughout Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia representing the Ohio River Valley States in the Junior Statesmen of America's annual Winter Congress.
There, the students will share with roughly 700 other students ideas about the nation's domestic and international policies and laws. They also will present and debate legislative proposals.
Recommendations which garner enough support at the Winter Congress from fellow JSA members from the Ohio River Valley States and students from the Southeast and Midwest regions will be forwarded for consideration by actual U.S. congressmen.
"(Junior Statesmen of America) is a student-run organization at its heart," said Charles Kronk, an 18-year-old North senior and media and public relations director for the Ohio River Valley Junior States.
"At the Winter Congress, these are student leaders you'll see from all over the place."
North's chapter was founded three years ago, and Kronk credited North graduate Siyu Liu with bringing the concept to the school and fostering its development.
Kronk said some of North's members are fiercely interested in politics and have aspirations of careers in public office or shaping public policy.
Others, Kronk said, feel an obligation to be informed citizens aware of local, state and national policies, who also might have ideas for strengthening our democracy and governments.
"You go all these places and hear all these people talk about young people who are disenfranchised, or who don't know what's going on," Kronk said.
"When I go to JSA, my confidence is restored."
Since the local chapter formed, North students have played an active role in rebuilding the Ohio River Valley States.
Kronk said they were a part of a movement to replace what he described as ineffective Ohio River Valley States representatives with more organized and dedicated students from the region.
"We gutted and redid our entire infrastructure," he said. "We fired half of our cabinet."
In addition to reorganizing and participating in local and statewide events, North students have taken active roles to lend their voices to political issues of the day.
One such effort recently led to the publishing of North junior Mica Caine's blog on the Huffington Post.
In that piece Caine discussed the 1991 case in which the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the state's policy for funding public schools was unconstitutional because it relied too heavily on local property taxes.
She expressed her opinion the state shouldn't abandon property taxes as a school funding source, but should decrease public schools' reliance on them.
Additionally, local students have worked to raise money for their chapter and the trip to the Winter Congress.
Kronk said they've held numerous fundraisers in hopes of reducing per-student costs for the trip from $300 to $200.
"The people in JSA, they're the cream of the crop," Kronk said.
In addition to holding the Winter Congress at the DoubleTree Crystal City Hotel in Washington, D.C. during the 2013 Presidents Day Weekend, the North students will take an evening tour of national monuments near Capitol Hill.
Other stops will include the Smithsonian museum, the National Museum of the American Indian, the Library of Congress and the United States Capitol.