The traditional Ethics Day held for members of the senior class at McLean High School was broadened this year to include about 20 students from Pimmit Hills Alternative School.
“I’ve never had an experience like that,” said Luis Quinones, a Pimmit Hills student who began learning English just four years ago.
“I don’t know anybody who has.
“I thought it was great. It gave us a taste of the real world,” he said.
Quinones, whose father is ambassador to the Organization for American States from the Dominican Republic, said the experience gave the students “a taste of the real world.”
He had strong opinions about one of the ethical dilemmas which was presented to groups of students who then discussed the ethical issues it raised, and made a recommendation for how the case should be resolved.
It involved drunk driving by an unlicensed driver that resulted in a traffic death, Quinones said.
“Our group found her guilty,” he said. “She didn’t really care for her life in the way that she should have,” he said of the driver.
Some 450 seniors from McLean left school for a day to attend the conference at Marymount University in Arlington.
Representatives from Booz Allen & Hamilton, McLean High School’s business partner, and community groups including the McLean Chamber of Commerce met with them to facilitate their discussions about various ethical dilemmas that were presented to them.
Booz Allen Hamilton representatives posed questions about business ethics, including insider trading scandals, and another ethical dilemma concerned cheating on college applications.
The students voted on what kind of punishment should have been given to actress Winona Ryder, tried earlier that week for shoplifting.
They had four choices: 200 hours of community service, 30 days in jail and a $5,000 fine, three years in jail, or simply to repay the value of the merchandise.
The responses of the students were recorded instantaneously on Optionfinder keypads, a wireless polling device provided by Booz Allen & Hamilton. The results were projected on a screen in the form of a bar graph.
Several of the dilemmas were oriented to American culture and thus challenged the Pimmit Hills students, said Didi Crowder, a career development coordinator from the school who helped arrange their visit.
Most Pimmit Hills students are 18 or older, and most have learned English as a second language too late for high school. They are completing their degrees as they carry responsibilities of adult life, such as jobs, marriage and children.
“Most people think of [Pimmit Hills] as a ‘thug’ school,” Crowder said. “Quite the contrary; we have the largest majority of students from the ESOL population.
Crowder said assistance from the Dunn Loring Rotary Club and McLean Chamber of Commerce’s education committee helped facilitate Pimmit Hills involvement.
“We don’t have funding,” she said. “We are funded like a middle school” with no PTA, clubs, or sports.
Both groups of students had breakfast before they went to the ethics conference, with the Pimmit Hills students going to the dining room in the adjacent senior center for breakfast.