A panel of five local youth, selected through an essay contest, engaged with an Amazing Earthfest audience May 16 at Kanab High School to discuss their perspectives and concerns about the nation, state and Kane County. The conversation focused on education, economics, environment and energy.

The event, moderated by Joe Andrade, bio-engineering professor at the University of Utah, provided a fascinating look at the future through the eyes of several Kanab and Valley High students.

Earthfest Director Rich Csenges opened the forum, thanking the 35 Kane County students that had submitted essays, and teachers Tamara Painter and Josh Baird, for encouraging student participation. “Their opinions will influence the future of Kane County,” said Csenges.

Andrade stressed the import of getting young people to think about and the future for the future.

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McKenna Roundy, Valley High – She thought there would be an increase in business to this area in the near future. “Our county is currently losing people because there are no jobs. Right now we get people because of it being a gateway to the parks. The future is a long way away, but I do believe there will be change.”

Rebecka Wiatrak, KHS – “This is a beautiful place to live.” As a recent move-in from Texas, she recounted her drive here, and seeing beautiful scenery along the way. She said that on the drive she saw a factory spewing ugly clouds of black smoke, made her reflect. “I thought that there were so many ways that are cleaner and better than this. I thought maybe we should look into cleaner industry.” She suggested exploring wind and solar energy. “If we can make it a cleaner place, we should.”

Kevin Vreeken, KHS – As a life-long resident here, he said that he has learned Kanab is pretty much a tourism-based economy. “We need more tourism attractions. I’ve been working on a new skate park,” said Vreeken, and commented on fundraising efforts. Considering education, “we do need more, most residents are retirees. Coal gasification-A lot of people didn’t want it. I think we should go with a better route on energy.”

Mercedes Dreyer, KHS – She addressed the four E’s requested in the essay, and added that a ‘C’ be added to them. Community. She suggested that area youth be exposed to environmental education earlier. “Kanab’s economy is based on this area’s beauty. Start with younger children, exposing them to environmental education. Educate the inhabitants a little more about the area and energy. Our future is held in ‘our’ hands. (Grandparents need to help.) Teach us how to be environmentally and economically aware.”

Sabrina Cox, KHS – She cited current things going on, such as the solar farm the Kane County Commission recently talked about. She stressed expanding, yet keeping the small town feeling. “Kane County is a bright spot on the map of Utah.”