Las Vegas Sun

April 19, 2014

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Sun Youth Forum:

Students tackle tough issues

Fist fights did not break out. But some of the arguments did heat up at the Las Vegas SUN Youth Forum Tuesday as 700 students from 24 Clark County high schools hashed out the weighty and mundane issues facing them and their society.

Is school preparing them for life? Should nuclear waste be buried in Nevada? Is the media sometimes insensitive? Should abortion be allowed? Should youths be allowed to cruise the Strip?

“I’m waiting for people to put on boxing gloves and go at it because it’s so intense,” said Clark High School junior Jason Gupton, one of the participants.

“These students seem to be a lot more expressive,” added Clark Principle Wayne Tanaka, who attended his ninth Youth Forum Tuesday. “They have better verbal skills than before.”

Moderator Dan Newburn, a School Board member said,” I think this year, more of the students are better prepared and more articulate than I can recall.”

In Newburn’s group, students discussed how well public schools have prepared them for college and other options. One girl complained that schools don’t teach the basic skills necessary for daily life, like how to keep a check book and apply for jobs.

“They can’t teach you all this stuff,” responded Basic High School student Judy Smith. “Parents have to take some responsibility.”

Bonanza High School senior David Shapiro said, however, that classes that teach such skills are offered. He complained that there is insufficient counseling.

“They wait till your senior year of high school to tell you what you should have done the last three years,” Shapiro said.

One student suggested that more cooperation is needed from businesses.

“While in high school, there should be some sort of training for something to do,” she said, “I don’t think there’s enough emphasis on helping you declare your career choices,”

Gorman High’s Aspen Trauth said. “Most of my friends have declared their majors (for college). but they have no idea what they’re going to do.”

Many students in a discussion led by County Commissioner Yvonne Atkinson-Gates appeared to believe that it is appropriate to provide day care for new mothers.

They even pushed for Gorman, a private Catholic school, to begin providing such services.

“Without day care in the school, they have to drop out and they cannot finish school because of the kid,” Cheyenne High’s Jennifer Clinton said.

Eva Sayre a Gorman student, said administrators do not force pregnant girls to drop out, but many do so because of the stigma.

“It’s just to hard” for the girls to attend, she said. “It’s more embarrassing” to remain at a small, Catholic school of 850 students.

Stacey Hall, a senior at Cimarron-Memorial High School, said administrators at many schools “don’t want to admit their school has a problem.”

Courtenay Douglas-Zink, a junior at Bonanza, suggested that, “if schools provide health care, moms must provide community service” in return.

The mass media took a lot of shots. Some students related stories of friends who were involved in car accidents and who became the subjects of nightly newscasts.

Others pressed for more positive news coverage, although that was rebuffed by a student who said newspaper feature sections often include positive news.

“There’s only so much room to print in a newspaper, so why print something nobody wants to read,” Shapiro said.