Editor’s note: About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 61st annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 8. 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 Around the World group.
When my government teacher informed me about the Sun Youth Forum, I realized it was going to be one of the greatest opportunities offered to me in high school. Being the politically outspoken student I am, it seemed almost obvious to my government teacher and me that I should attend the forum to experience the vast perspectives of other students in this very diverse district.
Arriving at the Las Vegas Convention Center for the event, I sensed I had greatly underestimated just how large and diverse the Clark County School District truly is. Just a small sample of students were there, but it was still nothing like I had imagined. The diversity was the greatest part of the day, and my goal was to hear as many different viewpoints as I could.
Given the political climate and the number of tragic events leading up to that day, particularly the Oct. 1 shooting, it was no surprise that our group’s first topic was that of gun control. Many students had been affected in one way or another by the tragedy in Las Vegas.
Mental illness became a focal point of our discussion, with several students identifying it as a cause for mass shootings and other acts of violence. Another portion of our room wanted to restrict the type of weapons a person could have and/or the kinds of ammunition a civilian could legally purchase. We addressed other ideas that could prevent these kinds of attacks without a change in legislation, with several students supporting the idea of “see something, say something” to identify people who could potentially cause harm.
Moving on to the topic of torture in the interest of national security, our group’s stances ranged from complete opposition to total support. Many questioned the effectiveness of torture, citing psychological studies finding that torture does not consistently yield true and helpful information. Some argued that because of these findings and the United States’ role as a world leader, this nation should be setting an example of more moral behavior. Our discussion led to a debate on solitary confinement, which some experts have identified as psychological torture. A majority of the room agreed that the issue needed to be investigated further before the form of punishment could be allowed to continue.
The final discussion was whether fear had begun to control students’ lives. True to form, our group’s opinions were mixed, but one student delivered the message of understanding how to use our fear rather than letting it control us. Her insight resonated with me as well as all the students I talked to afterward and were definitely the defining moment of the entire discussion.
Events like the Sun Youth Forum are essential in making sure that the next generation’s voice is heard. This event will hopefully give these same opportunities to thousands of students following me for years to come.
Noah Levrant is a senior at Green Valley High School.