Leavitt Center Spurs Discussion with High Schools

Published: March 26, 2014 | Category: Community Outreach

When Doughnuts & Discussions rolls through local high schools you can bet that the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics & Public Service leaves behind a trail of sugary crumbs and dazed high school seniors. Doughnuts & Discussions is a time for students, from the high school and Southern Utah University, to inform and debate over current issues over breakfast.

On Wednesday, March 25 at Canyon View High School, SUU’s Leavitt Center made its first stop on the doughnut tour in Mark Comstock’s U.S. government classes. University students involved with the Leavitt Center moderated a discussion with topics ranging from gun rights, abortion, sex education and capital punishment.

The intent was to facilitate a conversation for high school students to learn about current events and to teach that no matter the intended field of study, politics does affect them, according to Eric Kirby, executive director of the Leavitt Center.

“Having these discussions helps these young students formulate and relay an opinion and, I hope, have them walk away with maybe even a stronger belief than before on a topic or to feel enlightened about a different perspective,” stated Kirby.

The T-Birds kicked off the debates with laying out both sides of the argument, giving a background to the audience, and the debates began.

The young students, hesitant at first, slowly began to raise hands, state responses but as time worn on, confidence became stronger and they firmly stood their ground on the proposed topics.

And as the high school seniors stood up when the bell rang, with breakfast food in hand, they commented on the effectiveness of the class period.

Matt Forsyth, a senior at Canyon View, stated, “In a typical class the instructors teach, teach, teach, but being able to change the class and have these debates I felt more involved. It was nice to mix things up and be able to share opinions without a fear of being judged.”

Shelby Smith, a senior at Canyon View, said of her experience, “Having these debates was interesting. I think it is good to hear varying opinions. It helps with your understanding of a subject and it really grows your knowledge base.”

Mark Comstock, government teacher for 10 years at Canyon View, mirrored her statement and added; “I want my students to make a connection with college life on a different level. Today they were able to hear current issues and get involved in a way they haven’t before and ultimately seeing what a college education can give them.”

But it wasn’t just the high school seniors that left the debates with an influx in their education, the SUU students moderating the discussion left with added skills they couldn’t receive any other way.

Sam Findley, a senior psychology major from Las Vegas, Nev., helped coordinate this event commented on the events effectiveness benefited the most from the connection it gave him to the community.

He said, “I think it's important for college students to connect with high school students first of all for the for the sake of being a positive role model for them but also I think we represent a realistic outcome they can achieve. But mainly, giving back to the local community regardless of the means is always a benefit to all participating.

The Leavitt Center will continue to moderate debates, such as this, at other area high schools to connect with young students and help encourage a culture of curiosity on political issues, local or national.

The Leavitt Center is a non-partisan, interdisciplinary organization dedicated to preparing students to serve as responsible and educated leaders in a democratic society.

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