Rotary’s ethics workshop resonates with MAHS students
A group of juniors and seniors from Minnewaska Area High School recently gathered at Lakeside Ballroom in Glenwood to delve into a subject not easily defined and packaged: ethics. MAHS students were joined by their peers from Sauk Centre High School for a full-day workshop hosted by the Eagan Rotary Club and brought to the area through the efforts of the Glenwood and Sauk Centre rotaries.
MAHS participants were nominated by their teachers, and included 10 juniors and 11 seniors. Participating juniors were Ashley Anderson, Shawn Stumpf, Colin Richards, Alex Larson, Chris Claussen, Abby VerSteeg, Carter Westberg, Hannah Trainor, Hunter Dougherty and Cassie Philips. Seniors selected to attend were Grant Hitchcock, Garret Bartels, Mary Wuollet, Miranda Cerney, Courtney Schmidt, Brett Buckingham, Greg Helander, Riley Kinney, Emma Middendorf, Michael Gruber and Craig Spore.
Since 1992, Eagan Rotarians have conducted ethics workshops for Eagan High School students with the intent of preparing young men and women for the ethical dilemmas they will likely face during their personal and professional lives.
Beginning in 2008, Eagan Rotarians began taking the ethics workshop on the road. As of 2014, 2,500 students in 30 high schools across the state have participated in the workshop. The program continues to grow, working through local community Rotary clubs and their local high schools.
An interactive day
The first half of the day was spent exploring and learning about ethics through presentations, videos and small group work. For example, MAHS senior Emma Middendorf’s group was asked, assuming the technology was viable, if they would bring the wooly mammoth back from extinction. After weighing the implications, Middendorf said her group decided to leave the wooly mammoth in the history books. While maybe an exciting prospect, “There were too many negative effects,” she said.
Each led by Rotarians from the Glenwood and Sauk Centre clubs, the small groups spent the afternoon session in a real-world simulation. Students took on the roles of executives of the “Pogo” clothing company, which had come under fire for mistreatment of overseas workers. The students’ job, as MAHS senior Grant Hitchcock described, was to come up with a solution to treat workers ethically and still be an economically sound company.
Both Middendorf and Hitchcock took on the roles of CEO in their respective groups—and both said it was a difficult position to be in. “That was pretty stressful,” said Middendorf. “Communicating was a huge issue.
There’s so much going on and you have to filter out what’s important or not.”
Hitchcock agreed that listening was a key skill needed for the job. “You had to hear both sides; weighing the pros and cons was difficult.”
While the simulation was based on a business model, Hitchcock said the lessons learned throughout the day could definitely be brought back to high school, especially in leadership roles he’s taken on in Student Council, National Honor Society and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions). As captain of several sports teams, Middendorf said the importance of effective communication and listening resonated with her.
Besides bringing ethics to the forefront of students’ minds, Middendorf said the day provided another valuable opportunity: interaction between generations. “I learned a lot about Rotary, and they got to see what students are like, too.” She said after spending the day with business leaders in the community, they seem less intimidating—and she hopes Rotarians feel the same about teenagers.
Both Middendorf and Hitchcock said they wanted to thank the Rotary and everyone who helped make the ethics workshop a reality. “I appreciate that they gave up their whole day to listen, teach and interact with us,” said Middendorf.