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The new Detroit Lakes High School chapter of Junior States of America held a fund-raiser and got donations to create a student lounge area in the corner of the commons area. This is the first major project for the JSA organization. (Taylor Blank/DL Newspapers)

New group works to improve Detroit Lakes High School

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Detroit Lakes Detroit Lakes,Minnesota 56501
Detroit Lakes Online
New group works to improve Detroit Lakes High School
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

In November of 2008, a group of students from an AP European History class enjoyed debating topics so much they decided to form a new club at Detroit Lakes High School.


"It was very interesting and very fun," Senior Aaron Singer said of the class and debates.

The students started talking about creating a debate team.

"There was nothing we could do to just yell at each other, which is what we wanted," he said with a smile. So, they took a different approach.

While the student council takes care of things inside and outside of school, like the recent donation to the food pantry, the newly formed Junior States of America, "localized the effort within the school," he said.

"We really wanted something for the school."

So the group drafted an 18-page constitution, got organized with some teachers' help and tried to distinguish itself from the student council.

"We're trying to find that fine line," Singer said.

In January of 2009, the group held elections and started meeting regularly in February.

There are 15 members in the founding group, and the make up of the organization is based completely on the U.S. Constitution. They also follow Robert's Rules of Order for structure.

There are five representatives from the ninth and 10th grades, five senators from the 11th and 12th grades, and one justice from each grade. The three branches of government are all represented.

President is Singer -- who also holds the position of expansion officer with the Midwest JSA State -- followed by Cole Cossette as vice president, Bryan Lee as secretary, Nick Arens as treasurer, Cara Berger as secretary of state, Tanner Yocom as attorney general, Tré Martinez as secretary of interior, Ashley Morben as secretary of external affairs, Mariah Neuhauser as secretary of communications, Dakota Olds as secretary of publications, Kira Leichter as chief justice and Cecilia Erholtz as chief of staff.

The advisor is social studies teacher Wade Johnson.

"It came about because there were a bunch of students that wanted to improve their school," Johnson said. "I give them some advice, but this is their deal. I let them run the show."

To get the idea going, Singer approached the principals with the idea. First, they had to assess the need and purpose of the group.

"He supported us from the beginning, for the most part," Singer said of Principal Steve Morben.

Morben then approved the constitution and allowed the group to move forward and recruit members.

"We're hoping to be the top organization in the school. That was my vision," Singer said.

That's a vision he hopes doesn't die once he graduates this spring.

The purpose of the club is to "create and implement program, policy, policy changes to benefit the school," Singer said.

"It is student driven. It is for them. It's the one group we have around here that is by students and for students," Johnson said. "These guys are trying to improve the climate and what we have in the school."

The group is working on keeping the school clean, have gotten recycling bins put out, and most notably, are responsible for the lounge in the commons area. A large leather couch and television are situated in the corner of the room, which is in use at all times throughout the day.

The lounge has been in existence for about a week and a half, and after only a few days, "I'm very, very pleased with the use it's getting," Singer said.

Now that the lounge is accomplished, other works in progress include cleaning up the school, repairing the bathrooms and being able to drive snowmobiles to school.

"Whether we fail or not, we tried. That's what matters."

To earn money for the school improvements, the JSA group first held an inaugural festivities fund-raiser in the spring. They offered something for everyone -- a dance, dodgeball, Guitar Hero. They also received donated items for the lounge area.

As a way to get their name, information and freedom of the press out, the group started a school newspaper as well.

"Students are not allowed to express concerns or opinions," Singer said as one of the reasons.

There are five staff writers and two photographers at "The Laker Voice," distributed around the school. Singer added that when JSA has something to say, it can get the word out without having to hold a meeting or send out fliers.

Singer's vision for the future includes 32-inch televisions throughout school to view Laker Live and other news shows. At the bottom, there will be scrolling announcements from the school.

They've also thought about purchasing textbooks.

"Teachers don't get enough credit for what they do," he said.

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