Las Vegas Sun

October 20, 2014

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Sun Youth Forum :

Students debate pressing issues of day

Hana Saab pointed to her legs, side and neck - where the shrapnel left scars on her body during a Syrian bombing of her native Beirut, Lebanon.

“When the bombs come, I think it’s the end,” she said, “since I was 6 years old the bombs come and we hide in the shelter. It is very frightful, very frightful,” she said.

Hana is 15 now. A sophomore at Chaparral High School, she aspires to become a lawyer.

But Tuesday she was among a record 28 foreign exchange students who attended the 28th annual SUN Youth Forum at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

There were 697 registered students on hand - 49 from each Clark County high school - who participated in the seven discussion workshops that included Cops and Robbers, School Days, The World, The Good Old USA, Teens Are People, State City and County and Potpourri.

Educators and public leaders took the reins as moderators, led by Rep. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who was among the seven summarists at the first Sun Youth Forum in 1958.

Hana Saab was impressed with all she saw at the forum and with the American way of life.

“It’s very nice,” she said. “The talks were interesting and very informative. But everybody asks me how I like it here. I tell them I love it.”

But she becomes very sad when the subject turns to Lebanon and the shelling.

“Beirut was a beautiful city,” she sighs. “I don’t know why they (Syrians) do this. But I can say I am happy now that President Reagan is helping us. We waited for a long time for America’s help. I am happy now.”

Hana, as the other foreign exchange students repeated, said schooling in Lebanon differs greatly than in the U.S.

“I think we learn more at home. I know three languages now — Arabic, French and English — and, we know more about math and sciences,” she said.

Students in Zel Lowman’s Cops and Robbers group virtually agreed that a killer loses his right to freedom, even naming his own punishment. In Tom Semmens’ group, students felt that faster trial settings would be dangerous.

“The search for justice can’t be rushed to the point where you cloud it,” one boy said.

Grading systems caused discontent with some students in Connie Curtis’ School Days session. Youngsters were disturbed about the inconsistent patterns in which their instructors hand out grades.

In Paul Goodwin’s group, one student said there is no room in school for people who miss 18 days of classes.

“The teachers don’t have time to waste on anybody like that, and neither do the students who are there to learn something,” he said.

Allies, their effect and necessity was a big topic in Jim Bilbray’s group discussion of the World. One panelist said some of America’s allies aren’t worth their salt, but another student said, “Just because they don’t sanction our embargos does not mean that they are not our allies. It simply means they disagree with us on that issue. It’s like you have a fight with your brother. You fight, but you still love him, don’t you.”

In Liz Warren’s group on The World, students said the media should not be denied access to news when covering tragedies. They also spoke against nuclear war, and said the U.S. should concentrate on ways to destroy incoming missiles.

“If we spend more on education we’d have less unemployment,” summarized one student Peggy Phillips’ Good Old USA group. “You can’t expect people to pay taxes when they can’t know where the money’s going,” he added.

In Dan Newburn’s session, students voiced their objections to tax shelters for wealthy people. But one youngster said the rich people need tax loopholes for protection - to break even.

Pregnancy and abortion proved to be a lively debate subject in Jack Evans’ Teens Are People Too group.

One girl said, “We’re allowed to make mistakes. It’s the parents’ right to know about it, but it should be the girl’s decision to tell them about wanting to go through with an abortion or not.”

In Jan Haupt’s group, students weighed the prospects of their role in community activities. It was generally felt that belonging to school groups and participating in school functions is a good start.

The grassroots of government lies with the people and any five agreeable persons can achieve their goal. That was the opinion of Reid’s session of State, City and County. In Bob Forbuss’ group, the proposed bullet train from Las Vegas to Los Angeles was a debatable topic. Some felt it was necessary, some didn’t. A high volume of tourists every day would be its only salvation, one student said.

Jim Gans and Jack Bigger handled the Potpourri sessions that evaluated the judicial system, marriage, religion and rights. In Bigger’s class, students unanimously voted for the person’s right to carry a gun — for self-protection only.