On Thursday, March 15, 2018, a group of R-MA faculty and students attended the 2018 West Point Leadership and Ethics Conference, hosted by the West Point Society of DC. Approximately 200 juniors from 50 DC Metro area schools attended the event. Representing R-MA were Leadership and Character Chair Mike Starling ’88 P’19, ’23, ’24, English teachers Lynne Schoonover P’17 and Brandon Sloan, and juniors Nathaniel Chichester, Noelle Kramer, Khalila Karefa-Kargbo, and Bradley Gao.
During the event, the students heard from elite speakers such as LTG Nadja Y. West, the U.S. Army Surgeon General, and first African-American woman appointed 3-star general in the Army, and Army Captain (Retired) Florent A. Groberg, a recipient of the Medal of Honor. Faculty attendees heard from Marine Colonel (Retired) Arthur J. Athens, Director of the Naval Academy’s Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership.
The student audience learned about the process of ethical decision-making, then the 200 students were divided into 12 teams. After the initial round of competition, all four of the teams that included R-MA students had placed in the top six, making them eligible for the second round. For this, they performed a skit demonstrating how to use the process they had been taught to solve a theoretical ethical problem. Chichester was a member of the winning team.
“Our situation was one concerning a classmate, whom we had been friends with for most of our lives, getting involved in a gang and having a suspicion that they committed a crime on school campus,” Chichester said. “We chose that the best bet would be to tell the principal that he had done something wrong, and we wanted him to get help but not necessarily get arrested.”
Chichester stated that he was not sure why their particular group won the competition, but they had taken a slightly different approach in their skit. While most of the other teams chose to approach the problem with a bit of humor, with the Hollywood angel-and-demon-on-the-shoulder concept, Chichester’s group chose to use discussions with friends to aid the decision-making. “In some ways, [that] facilitated the process of dealing with ethical problems they were trying to teach us,” he said.
Chichester said that what he enjoyed most about the conference was that “although we were split into groups halfway through, it still felt like everybody was approachable and not very shy.” He added that he enjoyed the diversity of the conference, as well as the food. “I had a ton of fun learning about how I should deal with ethical problems,” he added. “I learned that if you stand up for people there's a right and wrong way to do it, but you've got it do it in some way, because, ‘If not me then who, if not now, then when?’”
For their win, each member of Chichester’s group was rewarded with a $25 iTunes gift card.