Teen political organization JSA allows Jake Hanssen to fulfill his fervor for politics

Eislyn Snyder

With a slight tremble and rapid heartbeat, senior Jake Hanssen stands at the 2017 Spring State Convention, anxiously awaiting the results of the election that would determine the next year’s statewide student leaders. Hearing the votes of the Redwood chapter that had unanimously voted for him brought him near to tears. Not long after, he was named JSA’s Lieutenant Governor of the Northern California state.

“Be the people” is the Junior States of America (JSA) motto, aimed towards encouraging teenagers to participate in politics throughout their high school experience and in the years beyond. Hanssen embodies the idea behind this phrase through his continuous involvement in this organization due to his fervor for American politics and expressing his beliefs publicly.

Currently, Hanssen serves as JSA’s Lieutenant Governor of the Northern California state, acting as second in command to the Governor, Kate Gross-Whitaker. In addition, he is the co-president of the Redwood High School JSA chapter alongside Angelica Vohland, who is also the Speaker of the Assembly for Northern California.

Senior Jake Hanssen after Wednesday's JSA meeting, is excited for this coming weekend's convention
Senior Jake Hanssen after Wednesday’s JSA meeting, is excited for this coming weekend’s convention

As Lieutenant Governor, Hanssen coordinates conventions and assists Gross-Whitaker and Vohland on overseeing the cabinet of about 60 people that facilitate the issues of the state. He leads the senate, as well, which is a group of eight individuals that determine changes in the constitution and service of the legislative body of JSA.

So far, Hanssen has attended seven conventions held in various areas of northern California. There, students’ debate topics range from rigorous and conceptual topics to funny, lively ones, similar to the Redwood chapter’s weekly debates at lunch.

Hanssen believes that being actively involved in JSA has impacted the way he thinks and acts in academic and normal day life.

“I think it’s made me into someone who’s not as afraid to take chances in both public speech and political debates, but also just in regular life. It really helps me become more vocal about my passions,” Hanssen said.

After growing up in a communicative, honest household that values debating and discussion, Hanssen believes that his sincere love for politics has developed as a result and that being actively involved in JSA has impacted his way of thinking about the world.

“I’ve really matured as a person in how I believe the world should be run and organized. I think that has a lot to do with how my house has always been a really open atmosphere where we can talk, argue and debate easily in what we believe in,” Hanssen said. “That’s probably why I’ve always been so interested in politics.”

Throughout his years in JSA, Hanssen has held various cabinet positions. He won the role of chapter secretary his sophomore year, and also held the title of Activism Coordinator, where he would connect with chapter presidents around the Bay Area and inform them on the initiatives that the Northern California state was taking in regards to topics such as voter registration.

Stephen Hart, the former JSA teacher advisor, has known Hanssen since his first year at Redwood.

“Even as a freshman, [Hanssen] was involved and vocal. I think that’s just part of his personality. It’s nice to see over the last couple of years how the leadership role has evolved. He inspires others to step up and take on cabinet positions and get involved,” Hart said. “[Hanssen] also commends people when they do a nice job, which is a really great trait that a leader can possess to support everyone.”

Hart said he also appreciates how Hanssen manages his time. He acknowledges that Hanssen always stays calm and collected, regardless of the jobs he is asked to complete regarding being the Lieutenant Governor and co-president of the Redwood chapter along with academic and extracurricular commitments that he must fulfill as well.

“[Hanssen] seems to have a really nice sense of self and time management, and taking care of his responsibilities. He’s not one of those students to always tell you to how they’re so stressed out and has so many things to do,” Hart said. “He never seems fussed and never complains.”

The Deputy Director of Fundraising for the Northern California state, senior Lily Moser, admires Hanssen’s open, cheerful nature and believes he has positively impacted her experience in JSA.

“[Hanssen] makes JSA easier for me because I always know I have a friendly face around. Someone I can truly rely on and trust,” Moser said. “He makes everything so enjoyable because he’s so happy-go-lucky and makes others around him want to enjoy themselves as well.”