Las Vegas Sun

September 30, 2014

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Where I Stand: Sun Youth Forum:

Forum shows that understanding comes from listening

About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 57th annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 13. The students were divided into groups to discuss a variety of topics. A representative was chosen from each group to write a column about the students’ findings. Michaelah Montgomery of Foothill High School writes about issues covered by her group, Home In Nevada.

“All those in favor of gay marriage being legal in Nevada, please raise your hand.”

All but three people in the room lift up their hands in response.

“All those opposed, please tell us why.”

Just reading about what goes on at the Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum could never surmount the actual experience. For one thing, more than 1,000 students come together from just about every high school in the valley to discuss controversial issues; but it’s more than just talking that goes on in those rooms. There’s negotiating, there’s revelation, there’s understanding.

I think attending the Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum would prove why we teens who apparently “know nothing about politics” would be far better suited to serve in the House and Senate than those currently in office. What set us apart from them was our ability to listen, rather than just talk. None of us feared voicing our opinions and none of us was opposed to listening to the opinions of our counterparts.

Naturally with controversial topics, like gay marriage, those for and against were pretty much set in their ways.

As we all know, when both sides refuse to find common ground, nothing gets done. There was heated debate, but we all came to the consensus that while you can’t make everyone happy, it wouldn’t hurt to try. And when everyone comes together, listens to each other and works with one another, we see these trials transform into triumphs.

My group focused on Nevada, and key issues that were important to us, including gay marriage, education and student numbers in school classrooms. We also covered gun control.

We concluded that marriage was a privilege that shouldn’t be denied to anyone. Education in Nevada is far from ideal and some serious money reallocation was needed. We found that zoning areas needed to be realigned and schools should be built in between large zoning areas in order to balance out the massive influx of students.

As far as gun control goes, well, we realized that guns aren’t the problem; it’s our neglect toward those with mental illnesses that results in the mass tragedies headlining the news. Therefore, we need to pay attention to the small underlying issues if we are striving to solve for the big problem.

I am very proud to say that this conference reinstated my hope for future generations. All of us there were advocates for enhancing the quality of life, for growth and for change. All we needed was for someone to listen.

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