Rosemount High School received a little boost in student leadership skills last week when the Rosemount Rotary hosted an ethics workshop for 18 juniors and 18 seniors, handpicked by faculty as student leaders, at the Steeple Center.

Though the Eagan Rotary has hosted this seminar at high schools across Minnesota for years, the event was a first for RHS. Rosemount Rotary member Jeff Ellis said he liked the idea of providing children with the tools they need to make good decisions. The goals, he said, are to equip the leaders of the high school with the ability to make even better decisions than they already do and to help build a strong leadership base at the school.

“By working with leaders at the high school, we can kind of leverage that,” Ellis said.

Participants spent Thursday morning studying ethics in leadership and ended the day with a business simulation designed to put their new skills to the test. After discussing such topics as morality and goal-blindness, students learned four tools to help themselves navigate ethical dilemmas, one of which was the four-way test rotary clubs nationwide recite at every meeting.

“It’s our pledge to ourselves and to each other to be straight with other folks,” workshop leader and Eagan Rotary member Tom Wilson said. “If we can raise another generation of people who live by that code, we think maybe we’ve left a legacy for others to enjoy.”

Following the morning discussion, students got the chance to practice their new skills in a business simulation that turned them into corporate officers at a fictional company accused of exploiting cheap child labor overseas. Teams worked together to develop a solution to their public relation crisis, then presented their plans to the larger group.

“Most haven’t ever come across a simulation before,” Wilson said. “It’s a new phenomenon for the vast majority, and they like it a lot because it puts them in charge of something.”

Audience members then had the opportunity to challenge their classmates’ strategies by adopting the personas of reporters, attorneys, mayors, and other adversaries.

“They really like doing that because they get a chance to stick it to their friends,” Wilson said.

The hope of the seminar, he said, is for students to learn to recognize when an ethical problem is developing for them and then use the tools provided to help them work through it.

Ellis said they received positive feedback from both the students and rotarians who participated and they hope to make it an annual event. Though the Rosemount Rotary has a variety of programs that work with local schools, this is the first to place students and rotary members side by side on a project.

McKenzie Samson, a senior who served as a team leader at the seminar, said she enjoyed learning how to apply ethics to different situations and use ethical values to treat others fairly.

“I think the highlight of the workshop for me was the business simulation and having to work together as a team to come up with a plan,” Samson said.

Jacob Grunklee, another senior who played the role of CEO, said he found it interesting and fun to compete with his peers in a way that used what they had learned earlier in the day.

“What it did for me was, it kind of removed some of the mysteries that may have surrounded ethics before,” Grunklee said. “It made making good decisions more concrete and easy to understand. I hope that they do it again for students next year.”