There was a time, shortly after college when I wished I could be a professional student. The idea of being able to sit in a classroom, read, and discuss ideas and opinions on a daily basis sounded much more appealing than getting up five days a week to commute back and forth between home and the office. Then the steady paychecks came, my quality of life improved, and I forgot my professional student aspirations.
Until I sat in on the AP Capstone Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility.
AP Capstone is a program new to Chaminade, and it was created by the College Board in response to feedback from colleges and universities seeking students passionate about learning, who think both collaboratively and independently, and who are effective communicators. On paper, it sounds like a new way for high school students to expand their academic experience, and start learning at the college-level. In person, at Chaminade, it is exactly as described. AP Capstone is Chaminade living its promise to educate for adaptation and change.
The forum, held in the Media Center of the Condon Center, gathered all 60 AP Capstone students for a day of higher learning. Dressed in business attire instead of their usual uniforms, the students heard from four panelists who work in four different career fields.
Sean Walsh ’81, a principal at Wilson Walsh George Ross, provided a perspective on corporate social responsibility (CSR) from both the private and government sectors. While Todd Stevens P ’19, chief executive officer and president of California Resources Corporation shared insight from the energy sector. A food industry and non-profit viewpoint was provided by Robert Egger of the LA. Kitchen and CForward. The group was rounded out by Jit Bhattacharya ’96, chief technology officer at Fenix International, who comes from the social enterprise world.
Vice Principal, Jennifer Poole, moderated the forum, and asked each panelist to answer:
- How does your company define CSR?
- How should companies behave in terms of social responsibility?
- Do companies have a responsibility to the community, their employees, the environment, or their consumers? What are the limits on these responsibilities?
- Should corporations have political influence?
- What is the role of government?
After the moderated portion of the forum, students were invited to ask questions of their own. Each student who stood up in front of their peers asked thoughtful questions, which demonstrated their clear interest in the day’s topics and issues at hand. Panelists were asked questions ranging from, “In order to keep prices so low [for solar power systems] what do you do about labor costs?” to “What should I do to be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow?” to “What sort of push back do you get on communities intent on preserving traditional ways of life?”
The time passed quickly, and the forum ended before everyone’s questions could be answered. However, students had the opportunity to eat lunch with the panelists and ask more questions on an individual level. In addition, later in October, AP Capstone students will go on a field trip to the L.A. Kitchen and see social responsibility in action.
The forum is just the beginning for AP Capstone students, who are in the seminar portion of the program. They are learning to investigate real-world issues, to work independently and with a team to research a topic selected by their teacher, and develop a written report after information analysis and making evidence-based arguments. Next year, they will take on the research half of the two-year program to address a real-world topic of their choice. Their research practices and writing skills will be put to the test, and ultimately each student will present and orally defend their findings and methodology.