Ten years ago I attended the Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum at the Las Vegas Convention Center, spending the day discussing “teen topics” with other high school juniors and seniors from around the Valley. While students were debating global politics and considering local current events in other discussion rooms, our conversation touched on topics directly affecting teenagers—including abortion, sex education in public schools and the lowering of both the driving and voting age.
The forum just wrapped up its 58th edition on November 13, with more than 1,000 participants sharing their views in those same themed discussion groups in those same rooms at the Convention Center. But a decade later, are teens still debating those same issues?
I returned to the LVCC last Thursday and sat in on three of the forum’s four Teen Topics discussion rooms. While a lot of what I heard was familiar (apparently abortion is still a hot-button topic among the 16- to 18-year-old demographic), there were new topics as well. Bullying—something you didn’t speak of during my high school days—commanded much of the conversation in one room, with students sharing their thoughts on the role social media plays, the effectiveness of programs like Flip the Script and how bystanders are a “big part” of the problem (preach!).
Another discussion room spent a healthy amount of time discussing the taxation of medical marijuana for education funding purposes, something that wasn’t even on my radar at 18. The issue was obviously a polarizing one, as the room was split, with some saying that it could “send the wrong message” to impressionable youth or lead to the legalization and taxation of harder substances (it was hard not to giggle at that one).
Other issues that didn’t make the cut 10 years ago included marriage equality, gun control legislation and the lowering of the drinking age—and boy, were kids passionate about that last one. “They can die for their country, but they can’t drink in it.”
But while things change, they stay the same. Former First Lady of Nevada and repeat forum moderator Sandy Miller might have said it best: “The thing that hasn’t changed is that these are bright, thoughtful kids.”
I couldn’t agree more.