By Ruby-denae Payne
Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Ruby-Denae Payne of Valley High School during the 60th annual Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum at the Las Vegas Convention Center Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016.
This was my first year as a participant in the Sun Youth Forum, an amazing opportunity for youths to share perspectives that in other situations usually would not be heard.
Arriving at the Las Vegas Convention Center that morning, I was filled with excitement and curiosity as to what the rest of the day would hold — what conversations and connections would take place. I was assigned to the Potpourri category of topics. We started off with discussion about the election, transitioned into the media’s effect on how Americans perceived politics, and somehow got to a point when we were discussing our education system and things the School District doesn’t understand.
I was fortunate enough to be seated among individuals with very passionate, brilliant and perceptive minds, presenting possible solutions to problems and offering opinions that we all agreed with or understood. We brought up the fact that we should be grateful to live a nation wealthy enough to provide free public education, but we agreed we should incorporate more life skills in mandatory curriculums. The main problem is that students are leaving high school feeling incredibly terrified of being an adult and how they will function in this new chapter of life.
Other students and I pointed out that we know what the Pythagorean theorem is but don’t know the difference between a subsidized and unsubsidized loan. Which one is more useful in everyday life? We discussed that students don’t feel prepared financially or emotionally for adult life. We thought a way for the School District to fix this would be to incorporate coursework on how to do taxes and how to properly budget money. Such classes are available, but only as electives. Our question: Why are these subjects not incorporated into mandatory math classes?
We suggested that teenagers also may not be feeling prepared for life after high school due to lack of mandatory sex education in schools. This is where some controversy arose. Some students thought that youths who choose to be sexually active should educate themselves. But sex education is more than just about the actual act; it is about the ways of consent, whom to tell when you are sexually assaulted and protection from sexually transmitted diseases. Not being informed by a trustworthy source can lead to misunderstanding that can lead to a world of hurt.
This forum was such a dynamic and rich experience. I heard opinions and ideas I had never considered before. Students shared heartfelt anecdotes about their own life experiences and explained their way of thinking. Our forum moderator even mentioned that some adults could benefit from the ideas and solutions exchanged at the forum.
This event really disproves the idea that children should be seen and not heard, because sometimes all it takes is a young mind with a different perspective to see things the way they need to be seen to get the most benefits from life.
Ruby-denae Payne is a senior at Valley High School.