Friday, Dec. 28, 2007 | 7:18 a.m.
More than 950 students from 45 high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 52nd annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 20. The students were divided into groups to discuss a variety of topics. A student was chosen from each group to write a column about the students' findings.
As I attended the Sun Youth Forum for the second straight year, many things were racing through my mind. I couldn't help but be curious about all the interesting topics that were going to be discussed in the group covering law and crime issues.
Without a doubt, these topics stimulate the most controversy because of the sensitive subject matter, ranging from abortion to immigration reform to graffiti. To sit and watch kids my own age express such passion about their beliefs and back up their claims with hard evidence was truly inspiring.
But as fun as it was to watch, engaging in the debate is what really got the spirit moving. After bouncing ideas off students I had just met and observing their thinking, I have hope that our generation will produce strong leaders.
The debate started with the issue of graffiti and how it is a growing problem in Nevada. One student commented on the statement by Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman about cutting off the hands of people who deface property.
Although the majority knew the mayor's remark was meant to be humorous, many didn't object to the idea. They said it would be a great way to teach delinquents a lesson about the value of property. But it doesn't have to be all that extreme.
I suggested that intervention at the root of the problem would be more effective. Many teens deface property because they don't have access to constructive ways of expressing their creativity. If we could create more art programs in the schools, we could dramatically reduce the number of graffiti incidents.
As time passed, the level of passion increased as heavy topics such as the death penalty were covered. It turned out that this was the issue that most divided the room. Very few people could make a clear decision for or against the penalty because many factors, such as morality and the well-being of society, came into play.
It was one of those issues we had to bury because no resolution was in sight.
The next issue that energized everyone in the room was illegal immigration. Most interesting was that people saw it from an economic standpoint.
A lot of key jobs wouldn't get done if we were to suddenly deport all illegal immigrants. Many people saw illegal immigration as a chance to culturally diversify America - instead of shunning this change, we should learn to accept it.
A lot of people agreed, but some insisted we need jobs for our legal citizens and even went to the extreme of suggesting building a fence along America's borders with Canada and Mexico to prevent any further trafficking into the country. (A fence planned to protect part of the U.S.-Mexico border is now under construction.)
This forum is really a defining moment for your character; it gives insight into your future. It was not just an individual foreshadowing, but a collective foreshadowing. A foreshadowing of almost a thousand students leading our nation into a bright tomorrow.
This is what I've gathered from my experiences at the Sun Youth Forum the past two years. I hope that future attendees can live that same experience, if not a better one.
Amir Hill- Shafeeq is a senior at Rancho High School wrhose group Law and Crime.