Las Vegas Sun

July 25, 2014

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WHERE I STAND:

Teens take on hot topics, from gay marriage to marijuana

SeHoon Park

SeHoon Park

For more than a half-century, the Sun Youth Forum has provided students across Southern Nevada with an opportunity to voice their opinions on a variety of issues. Time and time again, this conference has proved that the youths of this nation have voices that matter. I found myself involved in the discussion that matters most to those in this state — the issues that directly affect our home, Nevada.

Almost predictably, our discussion lingered on the issue of same-sex marriage. Although some pointed out that recent attempts to legalize same-sex marriage have been repudiated by the majority in our state, many in our group thought the time to recognize this relationship has come.

It has become a social trend to marry for love; many argued that if love is required for marriage, the gender of the lovers should not matter. Although many found the idea of gay marriage degrading to the tradition of marriage and generally unnatural, the majority pointed out the difference between religious and civic marriages and argued to define marriage to provide same-sex couples with the same legal benefits as married heterosexual couples.

As the discussion became heated, as many moral arguments often become, our moderator, Bob Stoldal, brought up the topic of curbing teen pregnancy. Because teens are directly in contact or affected by the ramifications of this issue, I wasn’t surprised to hear a plethora of great suggestions.

The majority seemed to agree that the abstinence approach to sex education in schools did not work and that factors such as poverty, lack of awareness and availability, and the social stigma of obtaining contraceptives, have prevented teens from practicing safe sex. Some brought up that a joint effort between a better-educated public (parents, friends, etc.) and the schools could lead to a society with fewer pregnant teens.

Another issue that we were passionate about was the state of the high school education system in Nevada. Many of us criticized poor budgeting at the district and local levels, coupled with reduced funding, which has left the schools in a precarious situation.

Many schools have been equipped with new technology, but it has become obvious from the students’ perspectives that without proper training, these tools become nothing more than waste. The school system not only needs more money, but it should also provide a program in which more schools could receive more qualified teachers, who are trained in their subjects and the technology.

The students suggested an income tax that would be dedicated to education, increased benefits for teachers coming to Nevada, and a system to better qualify teachers. Some also argued that more magnet-program schools could provide a focus for students as a trade school might.

For the remainder of the forum, we had several other intelligent discussions, including immigration, legalization of prostitution and marijuana for economic benefits, substance abuse, and the creation of youth-friendly activities in Las Vegas.

The greatest lesson I learned from this experience, however, is that students today are becoming more involved in politics. We have finally realized what it takes to make a difference in society. Therefore, I urge those with ears to listen — listen to the youth, because this is our home, too.

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