Las Vegas Sun

November 27, 2014

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Sun Youth Forum :

700 Voice Opinions At Youth Forum

The world may never see lasting peace in Ireland.

America needs stricter gun control.

And homosexuals have a constitutional right to an alternative lifestyle.

Those are a few of the conclusions generated by the nearly 700 Clark County youngsters attending the 27th annual SUN Youth Forum.

The students gathered at the Convention Center from 15 high schools across the district to exchange ideas and debate topics ranging from competency tests to Middle Eastern terrorism.

By 9 a.m., most of the students had checked in at the registration desk manned by the Junior League Sustainers, picked up their plastic-covered name tags and headed toward their designated meeting rooms. The students were divided into 14 groups, two groups scheduled for each of the seven broad topics including: Education, The Teenager, State and Local Affairs, The World, Crime and Law Enforcement and Potpourri.

Each group of students was moderated by community volunteers who did more listening than controlling of the teachers’ discussion during the day-long forum.

And when all the talking was over, 14 students were chosen by their peers to present summaries of the discussions. Seven winners will appear on television Dec. 13 and seven will be as guest columnists in the Las Vegas SUN.

The exchange of ideas among the youngsters was brisk and intelligent.

“I had a great panel,” state Sen. James Bilbray said. “One of the best I’ve had.”

After lunch of salad, spaghetti and garlic rolls, moderator Terry Powers’ group was treated to a special exchange of ideas and emotions when high school-aged students from Variety School, a special school for the physically handicapped, told about what it is like to be handicapped.

“People either dislike you because you’re handicapped and give you a lot of hassle, or they pity you - and most handicapped people don’t want pity,” Wesley Kelso, confined to a wheelchair, said.

Handicapped people truly are discriminated against, the students learned, and only when public attitudes change , so will public treatment of the handicapped.

One group of teenagers discussing state and local affairs decided that if they had the power, gasoline taxes would be frozen. The group, moderated by school Trustee Robert Forbuss, were concerned about the money being squandered.

“Before we see any more increase (in gas tax), I’d like to see where the money is going,” one student said.

Also concerned about problems resulting from the consolidation of the county and city police departments, the students said they doubted whether combining fire departments and other governmental agencies would really be more efficient.

The creation of Metro was a good idea, they agreed, but with the consolidation came conflict over funding and leadership. Students from Boulder City and other small townships said they were concerned about their interests being swallowed by a big operation.