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Belleville High School Students Discuss Ethics During Rotary Club's Symposium


Front Row (L-R): Madeline Bartels, Treise Langhammer, Leah Blask, Krista Diaz and Noelle Maire. Back Row (L-R): Noah Morrick, Rhett Cisler, Samantha Christen, Grace Pryzbyl and Clarice Loeffelholtz.

Since 2000, the Rotary Club of Madison has sponsored an annual Rotary Ethics Symposium for high school juniors and seniors and on February 19, more than 220 students from 20 different Madison area high schools met at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center and confirmed the need, not just for adolescents, but all of us to "think all the way through decisions."

Belleville students participating included Madeline Bartels, Treise Langhammer, Leah Blask, Krista Diaz, Noelle Maire, Noah Morrick, Rhett Cisler, Samantha Christen, Grace Pryzbyl and Clarice Loeffelholtz.

The symposium is meant to foster a reflective community with concern for the ethical dimensions of every day activities and to conduct an annual experience focused on junior and senior high school students that engages them in personal decision making designed to foster life-long reflection on the ethical dimensions of their living.

The five-hour symposium kicked off with reminders that ethical decisions are prevalent throughout history. The 2016 Rotary Ethics Symposium Chair Steve Johannsen reminded students that is was a significant day in history, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 after the Pearl Harbor attack, authorizing the deportation of Japanese Americans to internment camps.

"It is a decision that is still being discussed today," he said, referring to the current political dialogue on the Syrian refugee crisis and immigration.

Last year several Belleville juniors attended, including Lauren Severson, Sadie Pattinson and Kira Elmer.

All of the students enjoyed the experience and are working on a school-wide symposium for the district.

"I thought it was very beneficial to everyone because it taught us lessons we can carry with us for the rest of our life," said Kira Elmer. "It was so cool to have complex, educated conversations with people who were the same age as me. I participated by adding to various discussions on the scenarios we were faced with."

Lauren Severson agreed, and added that they discussed affirmative action.

"We discussed if it should be available to people who were struggling financially or minority groups," said Severson. "It was interesting to hear other viewpoints."

"The Rotary symposium was a lot of fun!" added Elmer. "It was very interesting to meet new people from around Wisconsin and discuss such complex situations with them. It also is nice to have Rotary as a system to solve problems of your own as well!"

Sadie Pattinson thought that the symposium was eye opening.

"When we first arrived, we were divided randomly with students from other schools to discuss an ethical dilemma," explained Pattinson. "Later, we were divided into 20 different rooms with students that were not from Belleville. In these rooms we discussed ethical dilemmas that the orator in the room presented. Then we had to decide which side of the dilemma we were on and give reasoning for our responses."

The students discussed various topics, some heated, some everyday problems, including bullying, cheating and racial issues.

"I liked arguing for what I believed in in each of these groups," said Pattinson. "Many people were divided in each group, and we couldn't agree."

The students who attended the symposium have started the high school's first Ethics Club.

"We brought back so many ideas from the ethics symposium that we decided to create a school-wide symposium on March 25," said Severson. "We looked at possible ethical issues in our school and wanted to start the conversation. We hope it has a good outcome."

District Advanced Learner Coordinator Sandy Walejko added that the district has two leadership opportunities for the sophomores.

"Our leadership committee will look at including that grade in the screening process next fall and will continue to locate quality leadership opportunities for students at each grade level so that a grade can be added each year to the leadership strand of the advanced learner program," said Walejko.


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