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January 19, 2018

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By Peter Grema

Sun Youth Forum:

Students optimistic about America’s future

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Peter Grema of West Career and Technical Academy (WCTA) during the 60th annual Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum at the Las Vegas Convention Center Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016.

About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 60th annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 29. 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. This essay addresses the issues covered by the group America.

Division on a number of issues spilled from the 2016 presidential campaign into the America discussion at the 60th annual Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum. But despite the contrasting views, all 35-plus Clark County high school students were respectful to one another and all agreed on the importance of showing courtesy in dealing with problematic subjects, such as improving the election system, the country regrouping after such a volatile campaign, advancing social rights and working toward higher education reform.

As the discussion got underway, students voiced opinions on unethical funding involved in electing officials to public office. Super PACs, and their influence over politicians, was a topic that a majority of students were against, claiming that the views brought forth by special-interest groups did not correlate to those of the general American public. The media also must be improved, according to most students, to eliminate bias and focuse primarily on facts. News agencies should work to publish raw information so that viewers and readers can draw their own conclusions, students argued.

Participants had much to say about coming together as a country again after such a harrowing election season, and most of their ideas suggested being more compassionate and having a prudent character. To heal divisions, Americans would have to begin to listen more to each other, keep an open mind and offer assistance to anybody they can help. Simply being more informed and not passing judgment on the opposing party, or the people who support that particular party or candidate, would go a long way in working to resolve issues across party lines and including more citizens in the national dialogue.

Segueing into the topic of social rights, one student in particular struck a chord with everybody in the room when she commented: “Nobody should get a cookie for being decent and inclusive, such as not being a racist or not being homophobic. That should be expected.” The statement was directed toward the notion that if President-elect Donald Trump was currently working with Peter Thiel, a homosexual Silicon Valley magnate, on his transition team, Trump would work to represent the LGBTQ community in the United States. The student went on to argue that Americans should be able to get along with absolutely anybody, regardless of his/her sexuality, gender, race or religion. Students came to a consensus on the belief that Americans should not champion themselves for being respectful toward others with different backgrounds than themselves because that should already be an ingrained element of the American way of life.

The vast majority of students involved in the forum discussion planned to go to college and to continue their education. Most, nonetheless, showed uncertainty in being able to pay for tuition and conversed about different payment options, such as loans, military service or working through college. Although students debated on the ability and the idea of the government paying for most, if not all, of the costs associated with getting an education after high school, students would want to see a system in which college is made more affordable. Participants agreed that college graduates should not be stuck in an endless cycle of debt because of pursuing an education.

With the U.S. opening a new chapter in its history, participants of the Sun Youth Forum looked with optimism toward the journey ahead. After all, America’s brightest days are yet to be written.

Peter Grema is a junior at West Career and Technical Academy.