Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 | 2:02 p.m.
Given the chance to address some of Southern Nevada’s most powerful leaders, a group of 425 high school students didn’t back down from asking the tough questions this morning.
“What’s being done to fix low graduation rates in the school district?” one student asked.
“How can we prevent violence in schools like the shooting in Sparks last month?” asked another.
Over the course of more than an hour, dozens of students lined up and patiently waited their turn to have their questions answered by a panel that included Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen, North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, Clark County School District Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky and others.
The forum was part of the annual Mayors Prayer Breakfast at Texas Station.
The event, which has taken place in Las Vegas for more than 50 years and is modeled on the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., brought together leaders from the public, private and non-profit sectors. They mingled and chatted with students from 42 high schools over a breakfast of eggs, fruit, coffee and hash browns.
The morning focused on themes such as unity and compassion. Prayers from Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and other traditions were read and dozens of students participated in an interfaith candle-lighting ceremony.
“I think understanding and having an appreciation for people that are ‘different’ is important,” said event Co-chair Jim Kropid. “You have to recognize we’re all one. We need to keep that message going.”
Proceeds from the breakfast fundraiser went to support Camp Anytown, a program run by the Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada that promotes leadership and diversity among high school students.
In his keynote speech, Skorkowsky encouraged students to act on their ideas and beliefs to improve the world.
“The only way we’ll be able to leave this better than we came into it is through our actions,” he said. “Your legacy has to be about the betterment of this world. We have to leave it better for the next generation and the next generation.”
Skorkowsky was a popular target during the question-and-answer session that followed, as students quizzed him on everything from the role of arts in public education to the steps being taken to improve student achievement.
Western High School junior William Riggs asked the superintendent about what was being done to improve the quality of education offered by the School District.
“We are working specificallyon two remediation programs,” said Skorkowsky, who emphasized a need to keep improving graduation rates. “We have to do a better focus on providing support and resources for teachers in the classrooms.”
Riggs said Thursday was his first time speaking with the superintendent and although the experience was a bit nerve-racking, he was glad to have his question addressed.
“It’s something they should do more often,” Riggs said of the question-and-answer session. “I’ve just been wondering what they’ve been doing, what their plan is. When you look at the education rates, Nevada has dropped compared to other states.”
Amonde Overton, a senior at the Veterans Tribute Career and Technical Academy, asked Mayor Carolyn Goodman about what’s being done to improve pedestrian safety after a spate of fatal accidents.
“I’ve seen it on the news a lot. What really stuck with me was the little girl on Halloween who was involved in the hit-and-run,” she said. “Knowing that my brothers and sisters are all walking to school, thinking about that made me want to ask that question.”
Texas Station, modeled after the Lone Star State, is a AAA Three-Diamond rated hotel with 200 rooms, a casino, restaurants, bars and lounges, an entertainment showroom, a movie theater and a bowling center about six miles from the Las Vegas Strip.
It features 91,000 square feet of gaming space with more than 1,775 slots, 27 table games, a non-smoking poker room, a 500-seat bingo hall and a race and sports book.
The hotel has several dining options, from quick eateries to restaurants, including Austin's Steakhouse and Texas Star Oyster Bar. Some family-friendly features include an 18-screen movie theater and a bowling center.
South Padre provides live music weekly. The Dallas Events Center seats up to 2,000 people for concerts and other live performances.