Las Vegas Sun

September 22, 2014

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Sun Youth Forum:

Youths at forum show they care

All teenagers are sort of rebels-without-a-clue who care only about clothes, MTV and causing trouble. Right?

Wrong. If Tuesday’s SUN Youth Forum was any indication, there’s a substantial body of enlightened young people out there who are concerned about the world and its future.

About 750 juniors and seniors from the Clark County School District met - and clashed- on issues relating to a law and crime, our country, our state, the world, school and teen topics at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

U.S. Sens. Harry Reid and Richard Bryan also attended the 35th annual forum, sponsored by the SUN and the Clark County School District.

The forum proved that teenagers are many things, but uncaring is not one of them.

“A common misconception is that teenagers are ignorant, uninformed and inarticulate,” said forum participant Felicia Jones, a senior at Eldorado High School, “but as far as I and my friends are concerned, we’re pretty well informed about the issues that affect us.”

Students divided into groups of about 50 to discuss such questions as: Can gangs be outlawed? Should teachers take competency test? Should we be involved in the Middle East? What help is there for teenagers involved in drugs? Should the high-level waste repository be located in our state? Is President Bush doing a good job on national defense? Do women reporters belong in the locker room? How can teens and parents establish a good relationship with each other?

Discussion was heated at times, especially over issues such as abortion, censorship and U.S. foreign intervention.

Although solutions weren’t always clear, one thing was - there’s more than one way to look at a problem.

“(The forum) really didn’t change my opinions about anything, but I did come away with a broader perspective,” said Bonanza High School student Spencer Bakich, “it gave me some things to think about in making decisions down the road.”

According to forum director Ruthe Deskin, the event was created to give youths an opportunity to be heard.

Most students don’t think they get the chance often though.

“(Adults) don’t think we’re educated enough to know what we’re talking about,” said Cathy Taylor, a junior as Bishop Gorman.

Students liked the idea of an all-school discussion.

Karey VanHorn, a senior at Eldorado, said peer forums get better results than teacher/class or a speaker/group format because teens can relate better to each other.

“It gives you a chance to meet other people and it opens you up,” added Western junior Bridget Katona.

Most teenagers seemed aware of the importance of giving a darn.

“We are the future, and we feel we should have a part in shaping it. We want to be part of the solution,” said Bonanza junior Suribabu Thummala.

Matt Talpis, a senior at Bishop Gorman said, “By understanding what’s going on now, we can learn not to make the same mistakes in the future.”

According to many students, today’s adults can rest assured the world will be in good hands when their generation takes the reins.

“I feel we’re a competent level-headed group,” said Jones. “We know where we’re going, we know what we want and we’re determined to get it.”

The forum was coordinated by Dr. Bruce MIller of the Clark County School District. Moderators were Nancy Bradley, Christian Kohlberg, Jane Jones, Gary Wadell, Jan Allen, Zel Lowman, Jim McGlasson, Peggy Phillips, Robert Marshall, Dan Newburn, Glynda White, Bob Price, Tom Biggar and Jeff Eskin.

Registrars were Junior League of Las Vegas substainers B.J. Stevenson, Romietta Hawkins, Doree Dickerson, Marilyn Glovinsky, Dorothy Huffey, Peggy Cladouhos, Lois Levy, Mary Laub and Jan Allen.