Las Vegas Sun

September 3, 2014

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WHERE I STAND:

Teens tackle nuclear waste, prostitution, education law

These were a few of the many issues discussed in the "Home in Nevada" group. Every student in the room had an opinion. The reason: The issues affect everyone in Nevada, old and young.

One of the topics was the Yucca Mountain project. Eleven students were in favor of storing nuclear waste there, eight were against and five were undecided. I was among those in favor of storage.

I have done the research on the safety of the process and, surprisingly, there is more evidence of safety than of danger. Many other students had also researched the topics and came prepared to intelligently express their views with supporting evidence.

The opposing side wondered: Why should Nevada be America's trash can? Alternative solutions for national waste storage were proposed. Each state should provide places for its nuclear waste instead of dumping America's combined 77,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste in our back yard.

The majority that supported the Yucca Mountain project spoke about the safety of storage, the research done to prevent accidents during transportation and other scientific findings.

With the final vote still in favor of storing waste in Yucca Mountain, our discussion shifted to the most discussed and debated question of the day: Should prostitution be legalized in Nevada?

This discussion focused on constitutional rights as well as the morality of prostitution. In the beginning each person spoke peacefully, but the discussion soon heated up. The affirmative side believed government intervention in prostitution would reap benefits. The government could control sexually transmitted diseases, prostitutes could be safe from abuse and the sexual rights of individuals could be preserved.

The suggestions from the negative end were based on morality. Many were concerned about the unintended consequences of legalized prostitution. How would a parent explain to a child the purpose of a brothel down the street? If prostitution were legalized, the general morality of the United States would decline, they said.

A final vote was taken and the question was: Would your parents favor legalization? No one raised a hand.

There was a unanimous decision on another issue. Was the No Child Left Behind Act working in Nevada? No one among the 34 students raised a hand, and I laughed at the not-so-surprising outcome.

One of the great aspects of my session was that it was not a Democratic versus Republican debate, but a discussion among the brightest students in Las Vegas who are concerned about issues affecting Nevada.

As students, we lack opportunities to speak publicly about political issues, but the Sun Youth Forum gave us that opportunity. In a room full of various beliefs and opinions, we all got the chance to speak out and learn from one another, even though we are only high school students.

Choe is a senior at Advanced Technologies Academy whose goupr covered the topic of Home Means Nevada