All boarding, grades 9-12 in Alexandria, Virginia
Students Experience First Leadership & Ethics Day of the Year
Leadership & Ethics Director Mimi Schwanda
On Thursday, September 28th, the EHS community engaged in the first Leadership and Ethics programming of the year.
The EHS Leadership and Ethics Program is designed to support the final words of Episcopal's mission statement: "Episcopal strives to prepare young people to become discerning individuals with the intellectual and moral courage to lead principled lives of leadership and service to others." Through its curriculum, the Leadership and Ethics Program deepens the students' understanding of the many facets of leadership and helps them develop an ethical foundation for making important decisions.
For the first program of the 2017-18 year -- and their first as students at Episcopal -- the ninth graders, having returned from the Burch trip the previous night, gathered to debrief their experience. Each group met with a senior and two faculty members to talk about the trip. They had a great time sharing stories. After this conversation, each student took a survey on character strengths. At the end of the survey, the students saw their character strengths in a ranked list. They shared their top five with the group, and then each member of their Burch team shared times on the trip during which they saw those character strengths come out in their peers. Both the ninth graders and the adult facilitators found this to be the most powerful part of the debrief. Finally, ninth grade deans Lucy Goldstein and Chris Davies gathered the class as a whole to remind them that the class will be at its best when everyone brings their particular character strengths to the table.
The tenth graders worked with guest speaker Shanterra McBride, who specializes in leadership development for adolescents. She led the students through an interactive program on community building. Through both direct teaching and small group conversation, McBride shared with the students strategies for conflict resolution, being a good friend, and coming together as a class. The students were left thinking about their identity as a class: who do they want to be moving forward? The program also gave them the chance to really see themselves as one class, both new and returning students, as they head into the rest of the fall.
The eleventh graders heard an introduction to the concept of servant leadership by one of their grade deans, Caroline English. After thinking about the idea of putting the group’s needs above one’s own, they headed into the gym to do an activity. In pairs, they had to put together Lego sets. Only one person could see the instructions (“the Looker”) and one person could work with the Legos (“the Builder.”) The activity allowed them to think about on group dynamics, teamwork, and doing what you can to help support overall group success.
Finally the twelfth graders focused on what it means to lead as a senior class, with or without official leadership titles. Their program started with a presentation by EHS Alum Reid Nickle, class of 2011. Reid immediately captured the attention of the senior class, sharing stories about his own time at Episcopal and challenging them to think about what they will do with the power they have as seniors in this community. He reminded them that respect is a two-way street and that the most powerful relationships with younger students happen when the seniors initiate a positive dynamic. The seniors then broke into small groups to talk about what it will look like to put Nickle’s ideas into practice.
When Esther Kim ’19 left her small, predominantly white town in western Tennessee to attend Episcopal, she says she had little sense of what diversity means, or of its importance. Yet four years later, her work to make diversity a focus at EHS has earned her a Certificate of Accomplishment from the prestigious Princeton Prize in Race Relations.