Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014 | 2:03 a.m.
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. Timothy Ponciano of Advanced Technologies Academy writes about issues covered by his group, Potpourri.
The perception of youth apathy seems to epitomize the societal standards in which adults rule. We often hear: “He’s just a kid; he doesn’t care enough to know what’s happening in the world around him.” Yet, if people who believe this Millennial Generation is nothing but self-absorbed inhabitants heard the powerful voices of the students at the 2013 Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum, then this notion would be laid to rest.
Future policymakers congregated to talk about current issues. From the legalization of marijuana to the economic implications of casino revenue, these millennials were serious about changing the way Nevada faces its political, cultural and economic issues. To put it simply, the solutions to the topsy-turvy chaos of problems we face locally and globally were discovered and pinpointed by the same voices that “don’t care enough to know what’s happening in the world around them.” But what was the most prolific issue? Education in Nevada.
It is no hidden fact that education determines a person’s life: where they live, what job they have, and even the people surrounding them. Perhaps the greatest challenge we face as young people is the uncertainty of not knowing where life is headed; however, that is just part of the life cycle. We need to ensure that students are prepared to be competitive, to be competent and to be motivated, no matter what path they choose to take. We can no longer accept that the less educated a person is, the more likely he will be incarcerated. We can no longer accept that the less educated a person is, the more likely he ends up depending on welfare, and even living below the poverty line. To do so, we need to educate the youth.
For our students to excel in the real world, we need to start implementing policies that will guarantee preparation for a bright future. “Every school should be equal and funding should be provided fairly,” one future teacher stated. “Las Vegas is so focused on tourism, why isn’t that money being spent on education?” a future journalist questioned. Education is an investment in our future, so why not emphasize it?
If we want to implement changes, we should do so now. The keys to unlocking the solutions to the problems we face globally lie in the hands of outside-of-the-box thinkers. These innovative thinkers can be found right in our backyards, fighting for their voices to be heard. These future ground-breakers are found working the water station at a walk-for-cancer event. These game changers can be found tutoring the less fortunate after school on the other side of the city. These change makers can be found helping to end bullying in their community. And these people can be found under the legal age, sitting at a classroom desk, belonging in the most “underestimated” generation, thinking about the possibilities of how they can change the world, starting with Nevada.
All they need is someone to give them a chance and hear their voices.