Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2017

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Nevada’s just not for us, many top high schoolers at Sun forum say

Sun Youth Forum

Hundreds of local high school students gathered at the Las Vegas Convention Center Tuesday for the annual Sun Youth Forum. For several hours, students engaged in debates and discussions with each other on numerous topics about local and world affairs. Student discussions were led by moderators who are leaders in the community.

2009 Sun Youth Forum

A student records video of lunchtime entertainment with her iPhone during the Sun Youth Forum at the Las Vegas Convention Center Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009. Launch slideshow »

At the Sun Youth Forum this week, 100 students were asked whether they planned on living in Nevada as adults.

Although the findings are unscientific, Clark County’s top high school students were overwhelmingly in favor of getting out of Dodge. Only 11 students said they envisioned building their futures in the Silver State.

This didn’t sit well with state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, a moderator at Tuesday’s forum at the Las Vegas Convention Center. “Maybe when they get to college they’ll see the value of coming home and giving back, whether it’s in education, public safety or elective office someday.”

Nevada will eventually rebound from the recession, and “we’re going to need all these wonderful young people,” Woodhouse said.

Cheyenne High School junior Gatsby Darwin suggested she might be doing Nevada a favor by spending her adult life elsewhere, as she intends.

“We’re counting on population growth, but we don’t have the resources to support the people who are already here,” Gatsby said. “I just don’t think that’s right.”

She’s also angry about steep budget cuts to public education in recent years, and wonders what opportunities for learning she’s missed.

“I probably didn’t get the best education I could have gotten,” Gatsby said. “And that’s upsetting to me.”

She would like to be able to send her child to school in a state ranked in the top 10 for education, Gatsby said, “and not 49th.”

Ashley Roberts, a junior at Green Valley High School, said her future plans aren’t entirely up to her. Outside factors, including economic pressures on her family, are also part of the equation.

“I don’t know where I’m going to be in two or three years,” Ashley said. “That worries me.”

Her grandmother is a registered nurse who recently lost her job. She was able to find another position — but for fewer hours and less pay.

“You would think doctors and nurses would be pretty secure,” Ashley said. “I want to go into a related field, so that’s a concern for me.”

Ashley plans on studying psychology at UNLV before heading east for her master’s degree.

She can envision coming back home if she were to find a good job in her field. Another useful lure: if Las Vegas were more family-friendly, Ashley said, it would be easier for her and many of her peers to envision raising their children here.

And, she added with a laugh, “a beach would be nice.”

To Aurora Roach, a junior at Las Vegas High School, job security has become a more important priority in recent months. She’s watched her father, who is self-employed, struggle with the loss of most of his regular clients.

“I want to do a lot of things and go a lot of places, but I don’t want to work for myself,” Aurora said. “It’s too unstable.”

A senior at Spring Valley High School, Jordon Roberts wants to be a lawyer someday. His first choices for college are out of state, but he’d like to come back to Las Vegas and build a life.

“My family is here,” Jordon said. “But I might have to go where I can find the best job.”

State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, who was a Sun Youth Forum participant in 1990 and a moderator at this year’s event, said he wasn’t surprised by the poll results showing the overwhelming majority of students didn’t intend to live in Nevada as adults. Horsford said he probably would have given the same answer when he was graduating Clark High School.

He added, “At their age, seeing more of the world isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Hopefully they’ll learn Las Vegas offers many things that other places don’t have, and they’ll come back.”

The real challenge, Horsford said, is “making sure opportunities exist for them, so they’ll see calling Nevada home is a good thing.”

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