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Young voices:

Local students weigh in on current events following Tucson tragedy

Involved Students

Daniel Rozental, a fifth-grader at The Meadows School, poses at the school Jan. 24, 2011. Launch slideshow »

It's been a month since the horrific shooting in Tucson that left six people dead and 13 wounded. Among the injured was Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head but is recovering.

The shooting's youngest victim was 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green. In a speech, President Barack Obama called for national harmony and eulogized Christina along with the other shooting victims.

Christina "showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age," Obama said. "I want to live up to her expectations, I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it, I want America to be as good as Christina imagined it."

As the nation continues to reflect on what happened, the Sun wanted to know what young people in our community are thinking about the future of America.

Their responses to the Sun's questions are condensed and edited for clarity.

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Daniel Pereira is a fifth-grader at the Meadows School in Las Vegas.

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Daniel Pereira, a fifth-grader at The Meadows School, poses at the school Jan. 24, 2011.

An important topic of conversation since Tucson is how politically divided our country has become. How can we start to bridge that gap?

What's happening is the Republicans and Democrats can never agree, which leads to more and more conflict. They never come together to try to settle their debates. I understand that's a hard thing to do, but instead of just blaming each other in political ads and the press — I think that's just wrong, it's not a civil way to make your point — they could handle their disputes in a more peaceful way by having honest conversations.

Nicole Santoro is a senior and member of We the People, a congressional-style competitive debate team at Bishop Gorman High School.

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Nicole Santoro, a Bishop Gorman High School senior, poses at the school Jan. 25, 2011. She was a member of the school's We the People squad, a Congressional-style debate team, this year.

How did you react when you first heard about Tucson? How do you feel now?

I felt like that's the type of thing that would happen in a different country, not ours, where different ideas are so welcome. It really upset me, and I'm still really upset, but we just can't let it get to us. We can't let this one deranged man affect how unique our country is and our debate. I think instead of focusing on how different the two sides are, we should be more focused on the common ground in between because at the end of the day, both Democrats and Republicans really do want to help. We need to keep in mind that everyone wants what's good for our country.

Aubrey Stubbs is a fifth-grader and member of the student-service club Cobras Making a Difference and student council at King Elementary School in Boulder City.

Why is it important for young people to be active in the community?

We do a different project every month with Cobras Making a Difference. One might be going around the community and picking up trash or writing letters to residents at the Homestead, a local senior center, because they get kind of lonely there. Participating allows me to reach my goal of helping others and making the difference that I want to make.

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Adam Wozniak and Aubrey Stubbs, fifth-graders at Martha P. King Elementary School, pose in the library Feb. 1, 2011.

Adam Wozniak is a fifth-grader and member of the student-service club Cobras Making a Difference and student council at King Elementary School in Boulder City.

Why should people care about getting involved in their community or taking an interest in politics?

You want to make a difference because if you want to have a good life -- and you want your children to have a good life -- then you need to be ready for whatever there is in store for you. Make the best of what God gives you. When I get a job, I plan to donate the money to the homeless or to another worthwhile cause.

T.J. Weiten is a senior enrolled in advanced-placement government at Faith Lutheran Junior-Senior High School in Summerlin.

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T.J Weiten, a Faith Lutheran High School senior enrolled in AP Government, poses in the school's library Jan. 26, 2011.

How do you feel about a political process that is largely defined by its negativity?

I definitely don't like that we've gone in a direction with our discourse that feels so negative, but at the same time, I realize that negativity works. They don't run attack ads just because they want to be vicious; they do it because if they run them, it's going to really catch the attention of the people listening or watching. There's always going to be someone who disagrees with your opinion, and then you'll always find someone who really disagrees with your opinion and will be willing to fight and name-call. It's important to be informed on the issues so you can make your own decisions and ignore the background noise.

Joe Rajchel is a senior at Green Valley High School in Henderson and editor-in-chief of the Investigator, the school newspaper.

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Joe Rajchel, a senior at Green Valley High School, poses at the school in Henderson Friday, January 28, 2011. Rajchel is one of the editors-in-chief at the school's newspaper, The Investigator.

In what ways have you tried to take an active role in the community? What about the future?

In 2008, I canvassed for the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns. Last year, I was involved with the Rory Reid and Harry Reid campaigns — just going door-to-door, making phone calls to make sure people voted and understood the importance of their vote. What I want to do when I get out of college is be a campaign manager. For that, I'll have to start at the local level to move my way up, but I feel like at the local level, I'll get to know what people's issues are and I get to be really involved with people and find out what's important to them. If my candidate wins, then we have to go in and make sure people's needs are being met.

MaShayla Ennis, a senior and student body president at Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas.

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MaShayla Ennis, a senior at Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, poses at the school on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011.

Why do you think it's important for people your age to be engaged with government?

What the government can teach us is that history tends to repeat itself and, although we're not old enough to vote, we can learn from the mistakes of our parents and those who are older than us. That way, we can reshape our country and make things better. It's also important to be involved because, whether we realize it or not, our community is what raises us and teaches us how to be leaders. So we should want to give back so we can continue to bring out strong leaders from our community.

Hunter Goeken, a sixth-grader at Henderson International School.

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Hunter Goeken, a sixth-grader at the Henderson International School, poses at the school Jan. 28, 2011.

At your age, how do you learn about important issues and stay updated on politics?

I learn a lot just talking with my friends and my classmates and teachers. One person who got me interested was my grandpa because he always talks about politics and the latest news. My parents and I discuss these things a lot, and I try to watch the news. If you start at a young age, learning about it and getting involved with it, it can help you build a smarter community.

Brendan Flynn is a senior and student body president at Bishop Gorman High School.

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Brendan Flynn, a Bishop Gorman High School senior and student body president, poses in the school's chapel Jan. 25, 2011.

Why do you think it's important for people your age to get involved with politics?

Politics is interacting with people, whether you're talking about it on a high school level or a national, or international level. I think it's easy for young people to criticize the government. At the same time, we have to realize that we will eventually become the government, so I think it's important to take an active role in the political process.

I served as a page for Senator Harry Reid, which is what really sparked my interest in getting involved. I think it is tough to find people my age who care, so I think you have to start the discussion on a level that makes high school students interested and explains how issues affect their everyday lives.

Daniel Rozental is a fifth-grader at The Meadows School in Las Vegas.

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Daniel Rozental, a fifth-grader at The Meadows School, poses at the school Jan. 24, 2011.

Why have you taken an interest in your community and the political system?

I just think it's cool because politics started everything. That's how people figured out the world. I think it's good to be a leader and a representative of your country. My dad and sister know a lot about politics, so we try to discuss issues sometimes. It's become a family thing.

Alexis Tafoya is a senior enrolled in Advanced Placement government at Faith Lutheran.

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Alexis Tafoya, a Faith Lutheran High School senior enrolled in AP government, poses in a science classroom Jan. 26, 2011.

What issues are important to you now, and in the future?

My mom is really encouraging me to know where I stand. She loved history and government in high school, but never really got involved with anything. I'm going to study biology and hopefully become a doctor, so I'm trying to be informed about health care and what the president's view is on it because it definitely will affect me as an adult, both personally and professionally. People our age should know who's in our government and how they're running our country. They need to learn and become engaged now because once they turn 18, they can start making decisions on who they want to keep in government and who they want out.

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Nick Visconti, a sixth-grader at the Henderson International School, poses at the school Jan. 28, 2011.

Nick Visconti is a sixth-grader at Henderson International School.

The tragedy in Tuscon has stirred a conversation about the way we talk to each other about politics. How do you think we can bring more civility and respect to those kinds of conversations?

Personally, I don't think it's going to stop. But people should worry about themselves and what they're going to do.

If you have the right mindset and you're doing good things, you don't need to worry about the other person.

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I'Jon McCoy, a senior at Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011.

I'Jon McCoy is a senior and president of the Omega Gentleman's Club at Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy.

Where does your motivation for getting involved come from?

My inspiration would have to be my mom. She always told me to be a great leader. I came to the conclusion that you can't be a great leader sitting on your couch. So I thought I should get up, take initiative in my actions and become a great leader in my community.

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Catelyn Bowers, a Green Valley High sophomore, poses at the school Jan. 28, 2011.

Catelyn Bowers is a sophomore and opinion editor of The Investigator, Green Valley High School's student newspaper.

Why do you think it's important for people your age to get involved?

It's all going to affect us down the line. What happens now is going to get the ball rolling for what's going to happen later, when we can vote, and when it all affects us immediately.

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Daniel Capp, a sixth-grader at Henderson International School, poses at the school on Friday, January 28, 2011.

Daniel Capp is a sixth-grader at Henderson International School.

How did you feel when you first heard about Tucson?

When you hear it -- when you put your mind in their perspective, it's really horrifying.

This guy is just shooting at people and they had to be wondering: "Why me?"

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