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Learning intangibles: leadership, ethics and decision making

Now in its 26th year, Youth Leadership Conference aims to instill character in local high school students.

January 13, 2011|By Megan O'Neil,
(Raul Roa )

If a teenager observes a schoolmate and standout athlete consuming alcohol at a party the night before a big game, should he intervene? If a girl knows a friend is digitally harassing a third party, posting nasty messages on social networking sites, should she report it?

Those were among the questions directed to 100 local high school students on Wednesday at the 26th annual Youth Leadership Conference at Glendale Community College. The conference — hosted by The Character and Ethics Project, a grassroots nonprofit dedicated to advancing good character and business practices — provides a forum wherein successful professionals and youth discuss character and ethical decision making.

"The point is to talk about what is a leader, what is ethical behavior in the business world and on campus, what are indications of character and how good character effects good decision making," said Susan Hunt, a retired Glendale Unified School District employee and co-chair of the event.


Students were drawn from nine high schools from the Glendale, La Cañada and Burbank school districts, Hunt said, adding that they represented a cross section of their respective student populations.

It can be difficult for parents and educators to counter the numerous examples of poor character that regularly play out in the media, said Kristina Provost, an assistant principal at Clark Magnet High School. But the conference helps to communicate students that they have potential, and will someday be contributing to society, she said.

"These students are our future leaders," Provost said. "They are going to be the ones that are determining the laws and regulations."

During the conference, students were paired with an adult mentor, including business owners, civic leaders and law enforcement officers, with whom they worked through character-building exercises. They outlined qualities of a great leader, and the challenges that come with making morally correct, but sometimes unpopular, decisions.

"It [helps students] understand how it can affect their life, and how it can help them to become a better leader in the future," said Clark Magnet senior Lyova Zalyan.

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