I had no clue what to expect at Sun Youth Forum. All I knew was I had to be at school a half-hour earlier than usual in business casual attire. Little did I know I was about to have one of my greatest days in high school.
There were students from all over the valley, all ready to give their opinions on our topic area, America. The moderator for our room, Terri Janison, started us off by introducing the four rules to follow throughout the day: Be respectful of others; everyone must speak at least once; try to find a solution to whatever issue we were discussing; and have fun!
During our ensuing discussions, each topic we sparked emotion and passion from the participants. However, two questions brought out the most controversy:
• Do you agree with the NFL players who are kneeling during the national anthem?
• How does America begin to bring itself out of its $19 trillion national debt?
Kneeling during the national anthem has been a serious issue around the country, and our little room was definitely not exempt from a heated debate about it. I knew that regardless of how old we were, or what our ethnic or cultural background was, this was going to be an interesting discussion. We started off with a student saying, “What about the soldiers who have died for the flag? Wouldn’t this be insulting to the family of the soldiers?” Her statement hit us hard, because we all realized that she was right. As much as I wish I could say we remained civil and calm, we did not. The worst of the rancor came when a student said, “Football players are not smart enough to be protesting.” This made many in the room was ready to scream. We let our emotions take control of us.
Switching to the national debt, we reached consensus on how to solve it, “Stop giving countries that want money, money that we don’t have.” It was an obvious answer, but the only one that would be functional. We all revealed our opinions and feelings about this, and we had a lot to say. One student said, “If we stop giving all the illegal immigrants our money, we would not have any issues,” which prompted quiet discussions between many little groups of students, who bickering with each other about the student’s statement. Many of the students began to become slightly irritated with what was going on. Many of us disagreed with what was going on inside of our little room.
The Sun Youth Forum showed me that not only my little group of friends had issues with what is going on in society. We all want what is best for the country, but had no way to express what we believed before the day of the event. Students from all around the valley came and told everyone else what they believed. Finally, we had somewhere to express what we thought without being judged.
Scott Toth is a senior at Foothill High School.