The Power of ONE! - Junior American Citizens Committee

Written by: Beth Cagle, National Chair, Junior American Citizens Committee
September 8, 2014

More than 113 years ago, one chapter in one state decided that it was important to help educate children about America.  In 1901, the Cincinnati Chapter in Ohio started a club “to teach…children some knowledge of the underlying principles of our government, of American sentiment, and of all that will go toward making them good citizens”; they called it the Junior American Citizens Committee (JAC).  Today chapters continue to teach these same principles in America’s classrooms, scouting groups, home schools, C.A.R. societies, and service organizations.

In 2013, 41 states involved over 16,000 students pre-K through grade 12 in JAC activities!  Approximately 588 groups nationwide were busy “Honoring Our Heritage” through club activities and contest participation!

The success of the JAC Committee is due to the hard work of the chapters. The power of one chapter chair and committee can expose the youth in a community to educational and patriotic opportunities.  One child’s JAC participation may lead to civic leadership; stronger commitment to family and community; military service; or even membership in DAR!

So, how does one chapter chair or committee do it?  It is a combination of creativity, communication skills, persistence, public relations, and a deep love of “God, Home, and Country.”  Several state and chapter chairs have shared their ideas for building a successful JAC Committee.  You will certainly be inspired to work with JAC after reading these phenomenal narratives!  

1.      Building Relationships and a Passion for Junior American Citizens

Patty Nutter, JAC Chair for the Anne Royall Chapter, West Virginia had two exceptional school experiences this past year.  A middle school had an enrollment of 327 students of which 318 participated in JAC contests.  An elementary with an enrollment of 87, had 73 contest entries.  How did they do it?

I have a passion for students and the JAC program.  I am a retired school nurse so when I retired and became the chairperson of the JAC committee for our chapter, I already had an "in" with school staff and administrators.  It is crucial to build a positive relationship with the superintendent and principals for the program to be successful.  This superintendent even recognized the JAC participants at a school board meeting and had photos placed in the local paper.  For the meeting I displayed a lot of the students work so the board members and those in attendance could view the wonderful talents of the students.  I emphasized that the success of this project was due to the teachers encouraging and including the topic in their lesson plans. The students performed well illustrating the theme "Honoring our Heritage". 

I present patriotic certificates to students who won at the county level at each school during their awards day.  I also emphasize that the success of this project is determined by those teachers who include the topic in their lesson plans. 

Janet Westbrook, North Carolina, JAC State Chair:

Where contest activity is high, it is because the DAR members have a good relationship with someone at the school.  It is all about building the relationship or already having one that helps with the contests.

As for the increase in participation, I've seen a direct increase with those chapters that I have made a relationship with.  I have contacted those chapters that respond on the MQ that they are interested, or thinking about it, or have read about JAC, or planning to do it.  The first year I didn't contact them directly and none of them got involved in JAC.  But the next year I did and a few started one.  Now, I put together a detailed letter with JAC handouts and put in the Regents folder at State Conference in May.  I give a few ideas to help get them thinking.  

The past 2 years I traveled to the fall forums our state puts on in each region. I've held JAC workshops at each.   I compare JAC to fishing.... When I get a member who nibbles or bites with any amount of interest, I jump on it.  I try to find out what they know then fill them in.  If they know scouting troops, we go that way.  If youth groups, home schooling kids, grand kids, etc I just try to match them up with their easiest available contact.

2.      Multi-task and Collaborate with Committees:  Work smarter, not harder!

Many chapters combine their committee work.   The Pensacola Chapter, Florida, JAC clubs participated in Constitution Week, a Flag retirement ceremony, Veteran’s Day and President’s Day activities. 

In Missouri, the Marguerite McNair Chapter JAC sponsored the display of the US map during Constitution Week at their City Hall and volunteered as story-tellers to the kindergarten classes.  Multitasking committees such as Literacy, Constitution Week, Good Citizens, the Flag of the United States of America, DAR Service for Veterans, and JAC is a wonderful way to accomplish chapter goals…work smarter, not harder!

3.      Promote and Publicize Your Chapter Work!

Publicity works!  During 2013, the Dodge City Chapter, Kansas published 22 articles about their JAC activities.  Publicity provides information to the community about DAR work and activities.  This publicity may lead to increased JAC participation and even new members for DAR!

The JAC Committee in Illinois uses publicity to showcase student achievement.  The Beaucoup Creek Chapter publicized a city council and mayor’s proclamation in recognition of a student’s national honors.  The Governor Thomas Ford Chapter holds an annual Awards Day for their winners, where  the students’ work is on display and trophies are presented.  The event is recognized in the local paper and in the chapters’ newsletter which is mailed to each child’s family. 

4.  Make JAC Fun and Worthwhile!

In Kentucky, first place state winners were invited to attend the Youth Awards Ceremony at the KDSAR State Conference where they enjoyed a cookie party, received their certificates and ribbons, participated in drawings for door prizes (including a trip to the state capitol), and posed for pictures with the State Regent.  More than fifty of the first place winners attended with their parents, siblings and even some of their teachers/administrators.   Over 3,000 students were involved in JAC activities throughout the state.  JeanEllen Hiter Melton, JAC State Chair, presented workshops to explain and promote digital submissions, complete with tutorials from the chapters who utilized the process.

The Tamassee JAC Club, South Carolina, had support from across the state to assist with the club service project of collecting aluminum pull tabs for the Shriner’s Children Hospital.  Over 62 pounds were collected and donated!  The students were invited to the hospital to see first-hand how their donations help children who are recovering from surgery and other treatments.

5.  Be Creative!

Robin Bagnall, Virginia JAC State Chair:

Members of Lovelady Chapter participated in "Colonial Days" at a local elementary school. All of the JAC fourth and fifth grade students participated in the activities such as candle making, stitchery and tin punch at different stations and each student kept a story book to write a description of each station they attended. Lovelady members dressed in colonial attire, assisted with working at the stations and made a monetary donation to help with the expenses.

 

More than 113 years ago, the Cincinnati Chapter had a great vision for the children of America; they would be really excited and proud to see that their “club” continues to thrive in the 21st century!   The power of one JAC chapter is as strong as ever!  Your chapter can make a huge difference in the lives of the young people in your community!  Get busy, build relationships, collaborate with committees, publicize activities, make it memorable, get creative, have fun, and be passionate about the Junior American Citizens Committee!   

For more information visit the JAC Committee section of the DAR Members’ Website or email nsdar.jac.chairman@gmail.com.  

 

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