Sofia Rizkkhalil, Director of Debate
Sofia Rizkkhalil is a rising senior at Alliance Tennenbaum Family Technology High School, where she will be serving, for a consecutive term, as Chapter President. She has been a part of JSA since the beginning of her sophomore year, having been introduced to the wonderful organization by an amazing group of seniors. She was immediately drawn to the passion she saw in every one of her fellow peers, the enthusiasm they had to discuss prominent issues from around the world, and the fervor that always made them more than eager to speak out and voice their opinions on politics.
Outside of JSA, Sofia engages in community service, leads her policy debate team, and dabbles in writing short-stories. On her off-days, you can catch her babysitting her two younger sisters or visiting museums.
She’s honored to be serving as your 2017-2018 SoCal JSA Director of Debate and is beyond excited for the upcoming year.
Judy Zhang, Director of Moderators
Judy Zhang is a sophomore at Palisades Charter High School and was immediately attracted to the debating and public speaking aspects of JSA. This interest soon developed into a passion after she attended Fall State as a freshman and experienced what it felt like to be in a room where people truly cared about what’s happening to the country and were willing to do something about it. The intellectually stimulating conversations and meeting the most genuine, kind-hearted high school students of various backgrounds at One Days only solidified her love for JSA further.
Last summer, Judy had the absolute privilege of attending the JSA Stanford Summer School where she fell in love with the fact that other people cared just as much for the same issues that she was passionate about and that, simultaneously, she could have civil discussions with others that had very different opinions of the world. Currently, she serves as her chapter’s vice president and was selected as Deputy Director of Debate in her freshman year for mid-year cabinet decisions.
Aside from JSA, Judy participates in Mock Trial, Moot Court, Journalism, tutors high schoolers for community service, and has been avidly trying to learn all the lyrics to “Alphabet Aerobics” by Blackalicious. You can find her these days obsessing over 80’s music, watching political TV shows such as Veep or House of Cards, or reading. She is incredibly excited to meet new people this year and work with them to further develop JSA into a better organization than it already is.
Isabel Guzmen, Deputy Director of Debate
Isabel Guzman is a senior at McBride High School. She began her school’s chapter her sophomore year and since then has continuously worked to build, strengthen, and expand her chapter’s presence both at school and at JSA conventions. Besides JSA, Isabel participates in VEX Robotics, Ham Radio, Youth Leadership at her church, and is in the engineering pathway at her school. Isabel loves to combine her two passions of law and technology, and hopes to continue to do so in the future. Isabel aspires to go into a Computer Science major in college and then take her degree to law school where she will later become a patent attorney. She hopes later to become involved in politics and then inspire the youth by settling down as a teacher.
Jack Mckenna, Deputy Director of Debate
Jack McKenna is currently a senior at Dos Pueblos High School and is serving as your deputy of debate. Since his sophomore year, Jack has been heavily involved in JSA and had the privilege of being the Channel Island Region’s director of debate last year. Jack’s fondest memories in JSA include attending the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and writing and co-sponsoring the bill to ban pineapple on pizza for Winter Congress.
Outside of JSA, Jack is very involved in local government and politics, and is an intern for Congressman Salud Carbajal, a volunteer for various Democratic campaigns, and co-president and founder of his school’s Democratic club. Along with Politics, Jack is a competitive swimmer, being on club and varsity swim. Jack is incredibly excited to serve as deputy director of debate and can’t wait for what this year has in store.
Pradyun Biswas, Deputy Director of Debate
Pradyun Biswas is a senior at Beckman High School. He was introduced to the Junior State his sophomore year and since then fell in love with the program, and especially its political debates. While the debates were excellent, Pradyun believed he could take JSA’s principles of making change and improve the debates even further.
Since sophomore year, Pradyun has attended 6 conventions, and has taken an active role in leadership at the chapter level. Having served as director of debate for his school chapter this last year, and serving as treasurer in the upcoming year, Pradyun hopes to take the skills he has gained and apply them to the debate department, improving the quality and effectiveness of the debates. With more effective debates, the Junior State will have far more profound and engaging discussions and increased involvement.
Outside of JSA, Pradyun participates in Lincoln-Douglas style debating, Mock Trial, and community service with his volunteering group, Lionsheart. In his free time, Pradyun can be found crying over the state of current politics, swimming, or preparing for the day North Korea strikes the US.
Ara Yacoubian, Deputy Director of Debate
Ara Yacoubian is a junior at Rose and Alex Pilibos High School. He has been a passionate and committed member of JSA since his freshman year. Having immediately been captivated by the fast paced and substantive debates Ara become a devoted member of an organization the he values greatly. Ara believes that “JSA is the cornerstone of leadership building in our youth, and the epitome of our democratic system. It celebrates inclusion, freedom of expression, and the right to stand up for your beliefs. JSA is the perfect illustration, of our freedoms and the beauty in our right to free speech.” He has attended every overnight convention since his freshman year and continues to find himself in the company of his fellow statesmen whenever he gets the chance. Ara takes great pride in being part of this organization and always does his utmost to expand and strengthen JSA. He is the director of debate for the Pilibos chapter and has played an instrumental role in making the chapter one of the largest and most prominent in JSA.
His spirit and deep affinity for the Armenian culture have been important aspects in Ara’s life. His love of Armenian poetry and literature, have allowed him to become an active participant in many cultural and artistic events. Performing for such luminaries, as His Holiness Catholicos Aram I of The Great House of Cilicia, and the Prime minister of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic.
Ara’s experience in the arena of leadership has not been scarce. Ara is a cabinet member of the school’s student council. He is also a member of the Armenian cultural association [Hamazkayin] western region executive council committee, which is responsible for outreach and organization of cultural events and education in the diaspora as well as Armenian homeland outreach. He was appointed to the youth outreach panel on the French Consulate’s chamber of commerce which is responsible for increasing awareness of french culture through commerce and youth interest in economic sectors. Ara has worked on numerous campaigns, most recently holding the position of chief policy consultant for Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian reelection campaign, responsible for preparing the mayor on issues for the fifteen televised forums and debates. He was also recently appointed as a commissioner for the planning department at the city of Glendale after a stellar performance in the mayor’s campaign. Ara has also worked in District 1 of Los Angeles’s city council and was recruited as PR manager for the campaign of Joe Bray Ali a city council candidate. Ara is also on the board of cultural content for the english arts wing of the world renowned Paris-Sorbonne University, and is also part of the universities Directeur Régional Ouest Los Angeles (Regional Director Coalition).
In his new position at the debate department, Ara plans to build on the passionate connection he has to the artform of debate and the junior state. He hopes to collaborate with his fellow statesmen to improve, use the input and suggestions of other JSA members, and apply his experience and knowledge to ensure the future is bright and successful. He plans to bring substance and grow the debate department and ensure that the 2017-2018 year is a successful and memorable time for everybody.
Ava Ganz, Deputy Director of Debate
Ava Ganz is a junior attending Tarbut V Torah. She began her JSA career in her sophomore year. After her first time experiencing a Junior State convention, she immediately felt strongly inclined to become more involved within the state. The diversity of ideas and the exceptional political discourse among students that JSA fosters is what made Ava grow her passion towards the organization.
During her first year on cabinet, Ava hopes to see many new faces and hear many new voices in the debate room. She is determined to see JSA’s motto of “be the people” come to life at it’s fullest potential as her goal is to encourage as many people as possible to stand up and speak their mind in debate blocks. “JSA is a fantastic organization in which students can improve teamwork effort, compromising skills, and debate expertise. Every JSA attendee deserves this opportunity.”
Outside of JSA, Ava is the founder and president of the Speech and Debate Club at her school as well as the Young Americans for Freedom Club.
Claire Prall, Deputy Director of Debate
Claire Prall, junior at Palisades Charter High School, has been a passionate participant in the Junior State for the past two years. Brought to her attention by a close friend, JSA has since become an essential resource for social, educational, and political growth.
Claire has attended three overnight conventions to date and plans to attend as many as possible in both the near and more distant future. Each of these conventions, in addition to other JSA events and programs that she has not yet been able to take part in, are avenues for the free expression of ideas. Claire especially enjoys the Junior State’s ability to make heated debates into an environment where one person can learn from the conflicting opinions of another.
In her spare time, Claire enjoys painting at her art studio and engaging in fervent, albeit alarmingly detailed discussions regarding minute trivialities of Harry Potter and Game of Thrones. She can often be found cramming after an impressively immense period of procrastination or else combing through the stacks of books littered across her room to find the one that has not yet been read.
Rachel Metry, Deputy Director of Debate
Rachel Metry was first introduced to JSA in her freshman year through Santa Monica High School’s Club Day. There she met the legendary Chris Alba, whose acted as her tour guide through adventure known as JSA. She soon fell in love with JSA and all the social & educational opportunities it has to offer. She attended club meetings every week and became more politically active.
Since then she has served on State Cabinet as Deputy Director of Debate, attended seven overnight conventions, and attended UCLA Summer Institute. There, she met some of her closest friends in JSA as they all embarked on an educational journey through politics. She’s also participated in the Fight Apathy campaign outside of conventions.
Outside of JSA, Rachel enjoys walks to the park for a friendly game of basketball, pulling all-nighters with her friends to watch Netflix, and catching up with nature through her camera lens.
Saba Johnson, Deputy Director of Debate
Saba Johnson is a sophomore at Palisades Charter High School. She joined JSA in her freshman year, thanks to advertisements in her sociology class. Since then, she has fallen in love with the community and the endless opportunities JSA has to offer.
Saba applied for Mid-Year Cabinet in her freshman year, and this year she will have served as Deputy Director of Debate for two consecutive years. Also working as Co-Director of Publicity for her chapter, she plans to better the environment for the diverse population of JSA.
When she is not debating, Saba participates in ASB, Mock Trial, and lacrosse. You can find her reading a comic book, drawing, or re-watching Iron Man 2.
Vincent To, Deputy Director of Debate
Vincent To is a sophomore at Westlake High School. He has been a part of JSA since the beginning of his freshman year. Before then, he was a member of his middle school’s debate team, so a path in JSA was a logical step in the beginning of his high school career. Although he did not like it much at first, Vincent soon grew to love JSA in it’s entirety, from its many debate opportunities, to its large and friendly community. Although, he has only had the chance to attend two JSA conventions over his entire high-school career, he feels that JSA has given him a home, and looks forward to serving as a Deputy Director of Debate for the next year. Outside of JSA, Vincent also participates in his school’s music program, serving in both the band and the marching band. He can usually be found either practicing his saxophone, or procrastinating practicing his saxophone.