Las Vegas Sun

July 29, 2014

Currently: 95° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Sun Youth Forum:

755 Clark County Students to join Youth Forum

The Las Vegas SUN will host its largest contingent of students in 32 years for the SUN Youth Forum on Monday when 755 Clark County Students join to discuss current issues ranging from Central America to the Persian Gulf , from the Strategic Defense Initiative to nuclear dumping in Nevada, from Social Security to mercy killing to the media.

The students, selected by officials from 19 private and public high school, will spend he day at the Las Vegas Convention Center, where they have been assigned to one of 16 general topic areas, each moderated by an adult.

“All you have to do is ask the governor, a congressman, the president of a university, a superintendent, and ask them once (if they want to be moderators); they all say count me in,” Bruce Miller of the school district and forum coordinator.

“They recognize the importance of it, and most of them took part in the leadership program,” he said. “In fact, we have to turn down some very important community leaders because we don’t have enough groups for them.”

Ruthe Deskin, longtime forum director, said Sen. Harry Reid — who said last week he wouldn’t be able to moderate this year because of an important Senate vote — participants, for example, as a student from Basic High School when not-yet Gov. Mike O’Callaghan, then a teacher, brought him along.

Deskin said the program represents “One day where youth can speak out openly and freely without any intimidation from the adults.”

“One of the beauties of the program is that adults are not only there as moderators,” Miller said. “And we have a standard rule that if an adult talks too much or overmoderates, they’re no longer with the program. Our moderators are geared up not to be any kind of spokesman, only as a facilitator or a moderator.”

Ralph Cordell, a Vo-Tech High School government teacher who oversees the moderators, orients them as to what’s proper conduct, he said.

The forum is unique in the district, Miller said, “We have many academic programs, such as the mock trials programs, varsity quiz, a type of college bowl, full interscholastic junior high and senior high chess, participator student councils. But this is genuinely a program all of its own kind,” he said. “And I think one of the best in the nation.”

Past commendations include a community service award and special citation from the Nevada State Press Association, and a Golden Press Award from the American Legion.

“It’s one of the greatest programs since the invention of bubble gum or the holding of night baseball,” Miller said, adding that the discussions yield a true barometer of student opinion.

Students’ thoughts will be further disseminated when the SUN prints comments of student leaders selected by individual groups. Some students will also appear on television during a panel discussion with KLAS-TV 8’s Paul Dawkins, also a moderator.