Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2014

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Sun Youth Forum :

Area students discuss views at SUN Forum

While beads of perspiration formed on some nervous adults’ brows, high school juniors and seniors discussed everything from police officers to homosexuality Tuesday during the 29th annual SUN Youth Forum.

More than 500 young people talked about seven topics encompassing a variety of smaller subjects, and 14 finalists were chosen at the end of the forum — half to write a column in the SUN in two weeks and half to give speeches Dec. 16 on Channel 8.

Television finalists, and their panel topics: Chris Bolden, Cops and Robbers; LeAnne Murphy, School Daze; Michelle Calderone, Around the World; Geoffrey Peard, Home in Nevada; Jason Reed, Good Old USA; and Vince Garcia, Potpourri.

Those writing for the normally reserved “Where I Stand” space are: Rodger Page, Cops and Robbers; Kristy Maglio, Potpourri; Jennifer McPherson, Good Old USA; Laura Wilson, Home in Nevada; Donna Williamson, School Daze; Christopher Lalli, Around the World; and Andy Escobedo , Ways of Youth.

The students, from 16 Clark County high schools, were uninhibited in their expression of concerns that rest close to their hearts and minds, often speaking with passion, and sometimes padding their words with anger.

In the School Daze panel discussion, students talked about teacher qualities that made them want to learn, no matter what the subject.

“We have a teacher at Valley who, when you walk into his class, makes you feel like you really belong there,” said 16-year-old Kirsten Oberholzer. “He’s the most caring person I’ve ever met in my life.”

All the students participating in the discussion agreed if a teacher doesn’t seem to care about his or her job, that attitude spreads through the entire class.

Carrie Lahtinen, 17, a Basic High student, said mutual respect must bond pupils and teachers.

“Some people say the future of our country is based on our youth,” she said. “But the future of our youth is based on our teachers.”

Panelists split opinions on teachers’ right to strike, but all agreed their instructors deserved more pay.

“We’re not talking about money to buy a Mercedes,” Lahtinen said. “We’re talking about money just to live.”

Students said homosexuality should not be a factor in hiring and firing teachers, although some thought elementary students, because of their impressionability, and high school P.E. classes should be exceptions.

More counselors are needed at some schools, young people said, so they can spend enough time with students, especially seniors.

“You get the feeling you have to look for scholarships yourself,” said Paulette Travis, 17, Vo-Tech. “We aren’t always told about scholarships that are available, and sometimes we have to hear about them from teachers.”

In talking about teenage-police relationships, students said they noticed increased friction between young people and Las Vegas-area police officers, and they agreed first impressions are lasting ones.

“When teenagers have one bad experience with the police,” one student said, “they remember that officer’s attitude forever.”

Finalist Bolden, whose father is a Metro deputy chief, pointed out, though, that young people sometimes dare the police to harass them.