Although the 24-hour news cycle might wear on some, Jake Kravitz can't get enough of politics.
The 17-year-old Worthington Kilbourne High School junior is a member of the school's Junior State of America club and recently parlayed his love of politics into recognition from a group of peers at a nationwide conference.
In JSA, students debate, complete service projects and volunteer in their communities and talk about complex political issues in "thought talks" with no winners.
"Some people will say, 'Oh, it's just debate club,' " Kravitz said. "But we might debate once a meeting and even then the focus isn't on winning – it's more on understanding."
That concept was right up his alley.
Kravitz said he considers himself a "political junkie" and he wants to be a political-science or international-studies major in college.
"I've always loved politics; I've always been really into it," he said. "So I was like, 'This is awesome, a political club.' I really wanted to join and get started."
Kravitz and 10 other teammates from Kilbourne attended the Junior State of America Winter Congress in Arlington, Virginia, from Feb. 16 to 18 and competed with delegates from the Midwest, Ohio River Valley and Southeast regions.
Students submitted bills for a "mock congress" to debate and vote on, with many arguing for or against the topics over the course of the three days.
Each day, the room of congress members would vote for a "best speaker" and award that person with an engraved gavel as a prize. Two days in a row, in rooms full of 25 and then 80 people, Kravitz was the winner.
Speaking on topics ranging from the idea of defunding the United Nations to his own bill about recognizing Jerusalem as a dual capital of both Israel and Palestine, Kravitz said, he was "really surprised," though he took it as a good sign that he made the crowd laugh.
"I didn't know if I had convinced enough people or not, or if I had really left an impression on the room," he said. "It's hard to say, 'I'm No. 1 out of all of these people.' "
In an organization like JSA, Kravitz said, winning isn't the objective. But he said being recognized by his peers offered a different kind of pride.
"To be recognized like that shows that people actually think you speak well, and that's humbling," he said. "It's not the main point of JSA – which is understanding and that civic aspect – but it's an amazing honor."
Kilbourne teacher Steve Buck serves as an adviser to the JSA club, and he emphasized how proud he is of the student-run nature of the organization, which has been at Kilbourne for only two years.
"It is so impressive to see thoughtful, engaged teenagers run it," he said. "Adult involvement is limited to administrative, legal and safety issues."
Buck said he hopes to see Kravitz become lieutenant governor of the Ohio River Valley JSA region and he appreciates that Kravitz is "confident in his beliefs" but "respectful of others' views and counterarguments."
"Jake is a natural when it comes to debating political and social issues," Buck said. "He has an obvious passion for topics ranging from governmental policies and procedures to military and economic affairs to local, national and international social issues."
Kravitz said he hopes his accomplishments will help with college applications, and he has aspirations for a political career.
"But we'll see how things go," he said with a smile.