Las Vegas Sun

September 1, 2014

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Sun Youth Forum:

High school students take on big issues

More than 700 Southern Nevada high school students flocked to the Las Vegas Convention Center Tuesday to participate in the 31 annual Las Vegas SUN Youth Forum.

The event, which was dedicated to the late Assistant Superintendent of Schools Harvey Dondero, was designed to give juniors and seniors the opportunity to speak out on social, political, economic and religious issues that are relevant to society and the teenager.

The students arrived for registration at 8 a.m., and were assigned to groups according to topics of discussion. Each group consisted of 30 to 40 and was headed by a moderator.

The topics of discussion included: Law and Crime, School Daze, Around the World, Teen Topics, Home in Nevada, The Good Old USA and Potpourri.

Gov. Richard Bryan, Sen.-Elect Harry Reid, UNLV President Robert Maxson and Rep.- elect James Bilbray acted as mediators.

The students had been given one month to study the subject that they would discuss and many were well prepared to air their views.

In The Good Old USA group, the main topic of discussion was the Reagan - Iranian situation. The majority of students seemed to feel that Reagan was right and that the press blew the situation way out of proportion. Some compare it to Watergate.

“It was a tough decision to go behind the public’s back and try to free the hostages. I think we should stand behind Reagan. It’s his job to do what he thinks is right and best for the country,” said Greg Gorden of Valley High School.

Gorman High School student Natasha Mayers agreed. “I think he (Reagan) should be supported and that it’s too soon to tell anything,” he said. “But, I don’t think the Iranians should have gotten any arms. They have caused us a lot of turmoil.”

On the other hand, Nicole Wanger of Rancho High School said, “I think Reagan is senile. When he was elected he promised to never give in to any of the demands of terrorists, especially where hostages are concerned. He lost a lot of credibility.”

Clark High School student Jason “J.J.” Ruggerio said, “I feel screwed up. This has ruined his presidency. He contradicted himself. I think the Iranians are a bunch of terrorist. They should all be snuffed out. Nuke them.”

Meanwhile, in other rooms. topics like media censorship, sex and violence and the effects of rock music were being discussed.

One student said, “If you are old enough to vote, drive and enter the armed forces, you should be able to drink at age 18.”

Another disagreed. “I think if the drinking age were lowered, kids 13 years old would be able to go into the store and by liquor. The age is fine the way it is. If we lower it, more kids will die or get hooked on booze.”

Brian Greenspun of the Las Vegas SUN said, “The kids seem very well-informed and have a conservative viewpoint. They seem to be in favor of spending more money on jails and tougher drunk driving laws. After all its their money that will ultimately pay for these things.”

After several hours of discussion, the students were treated to a lasagna luncheon furnished by he SUN.

After lunch, the groups reconvened to elect summarists. Seven of the 14 summarists will give reports on TV and others will write reports that will appear in the “Where I Stand” column of the SUN.

The program was started in 1955 by Hank Greenspun and Ruthe Deskin of the SUN. Many politicians, businessmen and teachers can remember participating while in high school.

Reid said, “I was a summarist at the first Youth Forum 31 years ago. Back then, former Nevada Gov. Michael O’Callaghan was my teacher. I think this is the greatest program in the country.”

This year’s summarist include Richard Little, Cindy Steinberg, Robyn Chatman, Millie Gong, Sean Martin, Dara Caplan, Josh Reisman, Monet Berger, Antonio LaBell, Mark Fenster, David Shay, Dabid Herlong, Charles Leddon and Sharon Denton.