Ever since our founding in California in 1934, the Junior State of America has sought ways to expand across the country. For years, an area targeted for expansion was the Midwest, specifically the suburbs of Cincinnati and Chicago.
By the mid-1990s, JSA had opened educational summer programs at Stanford, Georgetown, and Yale Universities. JSA used contacts from these summer schools, as well as lists of politically-inclined students who scored high on standardized tests, to attempt to start new chapters. In 1994, an exceptional sophomore from Chicago, Dayna Schocke, was found through those means.
That fall, Dayna held a JSA get-together for interested teachers and students at Barrington Public Library. To her dismay, only three people attended. Refusing to give up, the three organized a One-Day convention at Barrington High School after their meeting. Their hard work paid off; more than a hundred students, teachers, and parents attended, and the Midwest JSA region began.
Soon, there were chapters at Barrington and Niles North High Schools. In 1995, a JSA branch was opened in Cincinnati. By 1996, the Midwest was large enough to hold the first Fall State, at Chicago’s Bismarck Hotel. The Midwest expanded, largely through the efforts of another student, Chris Davis. The Midwest thrived as it grew into the state it is today; students took buses from Chicago to Washington D.C. for Winter Congress, Spring States were held in Indianapolis, and Fall State continued to be a success.
In 1998, chapters in the Cincinnati area broke off into the Ohio-Kentucky Region, which would eventually become the Ohio River Valley. Despite the loss of territory, the Midwest kept flourishing. In 2001, Fall State was held in Madison, Wisconsin for the first time; despite being in the shadow of the September 11 attacks, Fall State attracted more than 250 students, and succeeded in displaying the strength of JSA in the face of changing perspectives and fraying national unity.
Since its founding more than two decades ago, the Midwest has grown into one of the strongest states in the Junior State of America. Now hosting conventions with attendance numbering in the high 300s, the Midwest contains thriving chapters spanning more than five hundred miles. The continued growth and success of JSA’s largest state, in spite of geographic obstacles, is a testament to the power and capability of the students who have worked so hard to make it great.