By KARL SCHWEIZER
EVERETT — Though the room was full of politicians, prosecutors and school officials, there wasn’t a speech or a policy discussion to be heard Wednesday at the PUD auditorium.
The community’s leaders listened instead as a panel of ordinary teen-agers talked about the weighty issues affecting their young lives, including discrimination, boredom and a lack of adult involvement.
The 16 Snohomish County high school and junior high youths volunteered to be the life of Youth Summit 2000, a panel discussion moderated by KOMO-TV’s Ken Schram and attended by about 300 people, including several elected officials.
Although the topics ranged from drug and alcohol abuse to the ideal size of high schools, the issue of discrimination seemed to draw the most interest from the kids and the audience.
"Being heavy, I’ve been made fun of from third grade to still today," said Josh Johnson, a Monroe Junior High School student.
Victor Jenny, 15, of Edmonds, said peers mock him for his dress and style of music.
Everett High student Saleh Al-Azadi said he has heard students make anti-Arab remarks. The best way to stop them is to confront the student instead of immediately taking it to the principal, he said.
"You can go to the principal, which takes three days," Al-Azadi said. "If you do that, people are going to say, ‘He went to the principal right away. He’s a mommy’s boy!"
Confronting a student over a remark forces him to deal with the issue right then and eliminates the opportunity for him to deny having said it, he said.
The youngsters also talked about boredom, but did not agree that an abundance of youth activities will keep kids out of trouble.
"You can lead horse to water…" remarked Phil Gort, a Granite Falls High School student, on the availability of youth activities.
"Ultimately, the decision (to make bad choices) is up to the individual," he said.
Johnson said teen centers are a good idea, and suggested that Monroe needs one. The Boys and Girls club, which could be a teen hangout, has begun to target a younger crowd, he said.
"It’s turned into a total day care. They painted the walls green and a pastel pink. It looks like Easter in there!" he said.
Most of the panelists agreed that parents are still important to them.
Diana Nguyen of Everett said her busy parents have begun setting aside time to spend with their children as a family. She thought that was a good idea.
Snohomish High School student Josh Webb bemoaned the number of hours parents work.
"Kids may see a teacher more often than they see the parents, and I think that’s sad," Webb said.