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October 23, 2014

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Sun Youth Forum:

Students delve into war issue

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R. Marsh Starks/Las Vegas Sun

Spring Valley High School student Sean Rodgers talks about the death penalty while Durango student Teddy Stocks listens during the Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum Tuesday.

Students who have brothers and fathers fighting in the war in Iraq told fellow students at Tuesday’s 49th annual Sun Youth Forum that their soldier relatives tell them that we are making progress and not to abandon the cause.

“We should be there because what we are doing is working,” said Shereene Fogenay, a junior at Chaparral. Her father, Kenneth, is in the Army and serving in Fajullah in Iraq.

“He said a truckload of Iraqis came up to them the other day asking how they could help. They believe having Americans there is a plus.”

Shelby Spina, a senior at Indian Springs High School, said her brother, Marine Sgt. Robert Krause, is on his second tour of duty in Iraq.

“My brother wanted to go back,” she said. “He knows we are doing the right thing.”

Jasmine Eshragh, a junior at Silverado High School, said her father is a businessman in Iraq, and he believes, “we are doing more good than bad,” but Americans are “only seeing one side of the story” — the bad side.

While a number of the 1,025 students who attended the forum at the Las Vegas Convention Center said they believe we are winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people — and urge America to support the war on terrorism — others questioned whether a conflict against such an unspecified enemy can be won.

“Terrorism will always be here,” said Ashley White, a junior at Sierra Vista High School. “But while we cannot stop it, we can make things better.”

Jerry Li, a junior at Foothill High, said: “The United States brings terrorism on ourselves. We have to start listening to what others (in the world) think.”

Erin Hooks, a senior at Cheyenne High, said: “(Terrorists) are fighting for what they believe is a cause. They are not going to stop. They are not going to lie down.”

Maria Fedorchenko, a senior at Coronado High School, said we cannot force our way of life on other people who have different customs and beliefs.

“Democracy works for us, but it might not work for someone else,” she said. “It seems the people of the Middle East do not want it forced on them.”

Americans fear that Iraqis may put in a form of government or dictatorial leader that will force the United States to have to go back and fight a war in that region a third time, students said.

“They (Iraqis) have to come up with something (a government that) will work for them,” Emily Mower, a senior at Community College High School South, said. “We can help them maintain a stable government, but we cannot install one.”

A number of students also opposed reinstituting a draft to create a new crop of warriors to fight in Iraq.

“If they can’t get people to sign up (then) the government should get the idea that people are not happy with the war in Iraq and are not dedicated to fighting in it.” said Faun Ginac, a senior at Clark High School.

While a number of students called the draft a last resort, a couple of students had some interesting twists on what to do if the draft is reinstated.

“We should draft all people serving 10 years to life in prison,” said Eileen Rojas, a senior at Western High School, who opposes the draft. “What a better way for them to pay back society” for their crimes.

Jeremy Sweet, a senior at Cheyenne High School, favors a draft — but not just for young men.

“I believe women should be drafted as well, and they should be allowed to fight in combat too,” he said.

Still a number of students, said the United States has to find some way to finish the job it started.

“Regardless of what we believe about the war, we have a moral obligation to stay there now and see it through,” said Vinny Spotleson, a senior at Silverado High School.

Late Sun Publisher Hank Greenspun co-founded the Sun Youth Forum with Sun Assistant to the Publisher Ruthe Deskin to give young people a voice in the community.

Deskin died earlier this year, as did former two-term Nevada governor and Sun Chairman Mike O’Callaghan, a longtime youth forum discussion group moderator. Both were remembered in opening remarks by Sun President and Editor Brian Greenspun, Hank’s son.

“Good people come and go, but great programs are here to stay,” Greenspun told the students before they participated in discussion groups that focused on seven topics: America, Nevada, world issues, law and crime, school days, teen issues and potpourri.

The 21 groups were moderated by community leaders.

Among the first-time moderators this year were Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who as a Valley High student in 1967 and 1968 participated in the Sun Youth Forum, political analyst Jon Ralston and Greenspun Corporation Counsel and Vice President Key Reid.

“I was surprised somewhat by the conservative nature of some of the students,” Berkley said of her group. “They generally were dissatisfied with the quality of public schools and were opposed to rasing the minimum wage. They were split on abortion and gay marriage. There was some lively conversation.”

Ralston, a Sun columnist and host of “Face to Face With Jon Ralston” on Las Vegas ONE, Cox cable channels 1 and 19, said he was fascinated by the views that many young people expressed.

“I’m so used to talking to adults, but these students’ opinions were more provocative,” he said. “There also was a lot of diversity of views.”

Reid, son of Democratic Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said his three young daughters helped keep him familiar with certain youth issues that helped in moderating his discussion group.

Reid’s father, a Basic High graduate, was a student at the first Sun Youth Forum in 1956.

Among other moderators were Brian Greenspun, his brother Danny Greenspun, who is president of the Greenspun Media Group; Chief U.S. District Judge Philip Pro, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.

“I am learning more than I have in a long time,” said Goodman, a regular moderator at Sun Youth Forums. “It is so invigorating listening to fresh ideas from young minds. They are the future leaders of our community.”

Following two two-hour discussion sessions, the groups selected representatives who either will write a column for the Sun, appear on a roundtable discussion on UNLV cable television or write a column for CLASS, a nonprofit magazine for, by and about local high school students.