This year’s Coastal Empire Conference on Ethical Behavior will be held Monday, Nov. 19, and is open to high school students from Bryan, Liberty, Chatham, Beaufort, Effingham, and Jasper counties.
It was created to help students understand that, "without character, there isn’t anything else good that can come of it," said George Woods, chairman of the conference and one of the West Point Society’s board of directors, at the Richmond Hill Rotary Luncheon on Thursday, Aug. 30.
The conference started five years ago, and is put on by West Point Society of Savannah and the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Pooler.
"The desired outcome of the conference is to motivate student attendees to work closely with educators in establishing viable high school programs which would teach our young people the importance of establishing and maintaining high moral and ethical values in their lives," the West Point Society’s web page said.
The program is not intended for West Point recruitment, Woods said. Rather, it is a way the West Point Society can give back to the area and help regional high school students, he explained.
Ethical topics for discussion have ranged from plagiarism to bootleg music, to the more basic idea of being responsible for one’s actions, Woods said, noting the topics are on a case study level.
Each school wanting to participate may send two high school juniors. While the education program is targeted to juniors, Woods noted any high school student is eligible to attend if interested. Schools with a JROTC program may additionally send one of their JROTC cadets; one counselor or teacher involved in teaching ethical values from each high school is also invited. Bryan County has repeatedly sent approximately 12-15 students each year.
The conference begins with a keynote address, followed by West Point representatives discussing the ethics program at West Point, as well as character values. Then, attendees are broken into several work groups, each of which focuses on discussing ways for improving ethical codes and supporting programs in high schools. Work groups present their findings with conference attendees in a general session at the end.
"The conference teaches these students the fundamental things – like saying what you mean, and meaning what you say," Woods said.
The William E. Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic (SCPME) sponsors an annual National Conference on Ethics that is attended by over 100 colleges and universities from around the country. SCPME once again agreed to support this year’s conference.
The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum, with lunch provided. Registration will remain open to any interested students until Nov. 1. Please email Woods at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 257-5597, to register or for more information.
The West Point Society additionally offers its Travis Award for Excellence to Bryan County high school juniors, as well as other coastal counties’ juniors.
First presented in 1997, the Travis Award for Excellence recognizes public and private high school juniors from the Coastal Empire who "strive for excellence in all aspects of their personal lives, and who best exemplify the well-rounded qualities of candidates sought by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point," the web site said.
Personal achievements in academics, leadership, athletics, and service to the community, as well as a written essay and interview are the basis for award selection. Each finalist appears before an Interview Board, made up of community leaders from Georgia’s Coastal Empire, for a short interview regarding accomplishments, values and goals. After the interviews, the board selects the winner, who receives $500 and also becomes eligible for the Summer Leader’s Seminar at West Point.
In its 10 years, the Travis Award has been given to Richmond Hill students for four, including Alex Squires (2006), Lauren Brinkley (2003), Chris McConnell (2001), and Curtis Switzer (2000).
While the 2007 winner has already been selected, the 2008 deadline is this upcoming spring. The application can be found at www.west-point.org/society/wps-savannah/WPSS1.NV/tae-2006.php. For more information, contact Joel Daniels at 412-4143.