Las Vegas Sun

April 21, 2019

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Sun Youth Forum:

Change only happens when we fight for it

Editor’s note: About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 62nd 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 Home in Nevada group.

Student representative Amanda Chambers of Palo Verde, High School, poses during the 62nd annual Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum at the Las Vegas Convention Center Thursday Nov. 29, 2018.

Student representative Amanda Chambers of Palo Verde, High School, poses during the 62nd annual Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum at the Las Vegas Convention Center Thursday Nov. 29, 2018.

In my room at the Sun Youth Forum, students came together to share their perspectives on what life is like in our state, and discuss possible solutions to the problems that plague our desert community.

There was a wide range of diversity in my group, both in backgrounds and opinions. Nobody had the same experiences or stories, but there was one thing that brought us together: We were all equally impassioned, and this was a platform in which we could gain a voice.

We began by identifying what we felt were Nevada’s most serious problems, and we reached a quick consensus that education was an area in which the state has underperformed in all categories.

However, nobody could agree on why.

Some students said budgeting problems were causing the state’s struggles, while others contended that to increase funding would be to throw money away.

We learned that Nevada was nearly $4,000 below the national average in per-student funding, and many students argued that school administrators often compound the funding problem by making poor use of that money — buying new scoreboards for their football fields or tiling their front offices, for instance, instead of ensuring that each student has proper school supplies and that classrooms have enough desks.

Our general consensus was that Nevada schools couldn’t seem to budget themselves properly and struggled to steer what little money they had toward effective programs, such as specialized education for the state’s large and growing population of students who speak English as a second language.

In our discussion, students expressed distrust of leadership and frustration at the lack of progress on improving our education system. One student said it felt as if the issue was out of students’ hands — that no matter how much we tried, the young people of Nevada couldn’t change something as large and complex as the school system.

That’s when our moderator stepped in and reminded us of why we were there, debating the issues.

Yes, it is difficult for one student to change the mind of Nevada’s elected leaders. However, when that one meets other, equally impassioned students, one can turn into hundreds or thousands, and then change can happen.

This became the overarching theme of the day: The Sun Youth Forum was giving us an opportunity to alter the world so that we could look forward to our futures.

So there is a problem in the Nevada school system? Do something about it. There is a disparity between the amount of money spent effectively in Nevada and what should be spent? Change it.

This conference became a place where I, and so many other students, realized the effect we can have on Nevada’s future.

Amanda Chambers is a junior at Palo Verde High School.