High School Leaders

HSLP 2009: Day 7, July 17
Jul 18 2009 - 9:26am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 7— Friday, July 17
Reported by: Michael Casco-White of Hayfield Secondary School, Alexandria

     Today we learned about the setup of Virginia's government. Marc Johnson taught us about the components of local government in an installment of The Informed Citizen; Dillon rule (state gov has more authority); home rule (local gov has more authority); a rousing debate and its causes in advocating home rule.; form of gov-- city council & manager/ board of supervisors/ mayor & elected chairmen of board. Then Jack, Aya, and Emma presented a highly thought-provoking power point in which taxes, education, transportation, and crime prevention were covered. Other than Kate Maxwell's speech, this was the highlight of the day as debate carried on intensely for about 15 minutes.
     After a tasty lunch of chicken, salad, and wraps, we went back into a class session with Marc. During this time we discussed the latter articles in the packet and were all well informed at the end. The final two speakers of the day were very informative and offered different perspectives on politics. Kate Maxwell, a senior at Virginia Tech, told the class what it is like to be Chair of the College Republicans in Virginia. She is obliged to support the Republican candidate no matter what... which seems a bit binding and way too non flexible.
     To close up our great Friday classes, Aimee Perron-Seibert came to speak about lobbying. She loves her job and gets to attempt to persuade politicians on many different issues. She described it as “persuading your parents to let you take the car out”. Overall, classes this Friday made for a great closing to the week. Everyone participated and learned a lot.

—Michael Casco-White, Alexandria

HSLP 2009: Day 6, July 16
Jul 17 2009 - 10:04am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 6— Thursday, July 16
Reported by: Kevin Herbst, Goode

     Today was yet another informative and exciting day at the Sorensen Institute High School Leaders Program. To start, today was a casual day which was welcome by all as an excuse to get up later and skip the time required to dress in formal business attire. After a quick breakfast of maybe a bagel, we set off for a lesson on the Constitution of Virginia. This, coupled with our reading of the Constitution from the previous night, led to a better understanding of our state. For example, did you know that there have been six versions of the Virginia Constitution? Or that the Virginia Constitution allows for a line- item vetoes, which allow the governor to remove and insert articles into bills sent to him for approval or denial?
     After this lesson, we welcomed Mr. David Ledbetter who spoke to us about Virginia’s Trial Courts. His lessons included views on the re-enfranchisement of former felons as well as Virginia judges being elected through popular vote. Lunch was an exciting meal of wraps which were discarded by some and devoured by others. After this, we ventured to a new classroom we had yet to go to. Mr. Coy Barefoot gave us an interesting lecture on media as well as other aspects of political advertisement from 1 to 2:30pm. His lessons helped display the pyramid of political messages and how themes are interpreted by the lowest down on the "understanding totem pole." I would have to say this was the most interesting lecture to date. Mr. Barefoot also discussed the ways in which debates and television politics have evolved.
     The final session of the day consisted of two group presentations, one of which I was a member of. Our lesson included the Virginia governor’s role as well as the legislature, while the other group was responsible for covering the judiciary. The day was wrapped up in exciting debate over whether Virginia governors should be able to serve two terms consecutively. As a member of the positive side, I would have to say we won and presented some excellent reasons why governors should be allowed to run consecutively for terms. Hopefully tomorrow will be just as fun.

—Keving Herbst, Goode

HSLP 2009: Day 5, July 15
Jul 16 2009 - 11:02am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 5— Wednesday, July 15
Reported by: Benjamin Corbett of Lakeland High School, Suffolk

     Today we practically woke up at the crack of dawn to get on a bus to go to Alexandria.  The bus ride there was a fun experience for a few of those that decided to stay awake.  Most of those who decided to stay awake entertained themselves by watching movies or listening to music. Those that watched movies were highly disappointed when laptops died before the end of the movies. This was a common occurrence.
     We arrived in Alexandria at approximately nine o’clock. We were all enticed by the shops in Old Town that were offering delicious foods at the ice cream shops and colorful clothing at the boutiques. We pulled up to City Hall amazed by the fountain out front. We were hurried in to find Frank Fannon waiting for us. As soon as I got into the room, I went to the front to introduce Mr. Fannon. After I sat down he talked to us about his district and about local government.
     After Mr. Fannon we had Amy Gardner talk to us about the media and how it is involved in politics. She told us about media bias and trends in newspapers. Her discussion was very interesting and informative. Then we had lunch and walked to the waterfront and looked across the water to D.C.
     After lunch we heard from Delegate Adam Ebbin who discussed the major differences between the state and local governments. After Delegate Ebbin, Delegate Steve Shannon came and spoke on the office of Attorney General.  We all had an engaging discussion about the position he is running for. After Delegate Shannon, we had our last speaker of the day, Delegate Bob Brink. He discussed Virginia’s major issues such as transportation. 
     After our last speaker, we headed out to the bus which was taking us to our next destination, dinner. We ate dinner at Hard Times Café, which had an old-time sports bar feel to it. While we waited for food, we enjoyed free games of pool. The food there was great, and after dinner it was back to the bus for our trip back to UVA. The bus was much noisier on this trip so it was hard to concentrate on the readings I was trying to do, but nonetheless I got it done.
     Once we arrived back at Bice everyone practically ran to the door to get in. As soon as we were in everyone was grouping up to do numerous things, such as blog, work on group projects, or work on presentations. All in all I would say that it was a productive day. We learned a lot from the numerous speakers we heard throughout the day.  I am stoked that tomorrow is a casual day.

— Benjamin Corbett, Suffolk

HSLP 2009: Day 5, July 15
Jul 16 2009 - 10:18am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 5— Wednesday, July 15
Reported by: Ashley Murphy, William Fleming High School and Roanoke Valley Governor’s School, Roanoke

     As odd as it sounds, for most of us, our day began with sleep.  I woke up around 5:45am to prepare for my day, but as soon as I settled onto my seat for the three hour ride to Alexandria, my brain and body went back into a dormant state.  When we did arrive into the historically rich Old Town, I felt welcomed by its charm and charisma: the boutiques and stores, and especially the riverfront.
     Our opening speaker was Frank Fannon, a member of the Alexandria city council.  He provided information about government on a local level, especially living in the sometimes complicated part of Virginia known as “NoVa.”  Mr. Fannon’s lecture was of particular interest to me because he touched on the topic of solving the transportation problems in that area, which will be of great assistance when I work with my group on the culminating project.
     Second, Amy Gardener spoke to us about her career as a reporter for the Washington Post newspaper.  She discussed how Virginia is a state unlike any other because of its tendency to be purple, not blue or red like some others, as well as her role as a reporter and the significance of print media in educating the public on the government’s policies.
     I was impressed listening to the accomplishments of Steve Shannon, the Democratic nominee for Attorney General.  He is a graduate of the Sorensen Institute, which demonstrates how Sorensen plays a large role in forming Virginina's political leaders.  He was also one of the founders of the Amber Alert system in Virginia.
      My personal favorite speaker of the day was Delegate Adam Ebbin, who is running for re-election in November.  He talked about how he tries to keep debates as professional as possible, and not cross the line into personal attacks.  I think this is a very important quality and should be used by everyone, not just politicians.
     As of now, I can already tell that Sorensen has changed my outlook of politics, especially in Virginia.  I have met people from all over my state; although when talking about the issues our regions face, we are still quirky teenagers with the desire to learn and grow.  And until now, I had never given a thought to creating a Facebook profile, but if Bob Gibson has one, I must really be missing out on that revolution.
— Ashley Murphy, Roanoke

HSLP 2009: Day 5, July 15
Jul 16 2009 - 10:07am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 5— Wednesday, July 15
Reported by: Hollis Erickson of Loudoun Valley High School
, Waterford

     Today the Sorensen Institute High School Leaders Program took a field trip to Alexandria, Virginia.  This adventure began when thirty two sleepy-eyed teenagers boarded a bus at 7 o’clock am.   Three hours later we arrived in Old Town Alexandria.  We entered the city hall and filed into rows ready for a day of intensive listening.  A local government official Frank Fannon started off the series of speakers.  Mr. Fannon described how local government differs from state government.  For only having sixteen days on the job, Mr. Fannon did an excellent job answering all the challenging questions thrown at him.
     Amy Gardner arrived swiftly after Mr. Fannon left the stage.  Gardner is a beat reporter for the Washington Post.  Gardner works specifically with political campaign coverage.  A concern was brought up during Gardner’s speech involving the diminishing popularity of print news coverage.  Lunch was an extended hour and a half today allowing the students time for a walk around lovely Old Town Alexandria.  After arriving back from lunch, the next scheduled speaker, Steve Shannon, was running late due to his present campaign for attorney general.  To take his place, Adam Ebbin began his speech. Ebbin held the attention of many Sorensen students with his language and topics.  Steven Shannon arrived and Ebbin kindly let Shannon take the spotlight.  After both Shannon and Ebbin finished talking, photographs were taken with both the politicians and all the Sorensen students. 
     Delegate Bob Brink was the next to take the stage and give his speech.  Mr. Brink answered many of the students’ challenging questions and provided very useful information for our upcoming group projects.  After a long day, all the students boarded the bus to drive to dinner.  An hour later the Sorensen bus arrived at Hard Times Café.  A lovely dinner and fun games of pool were had by all. Back on the magical Sorensen bus we went.  The drive from Manassas back to Charlottesville was a long two and a half hours filled with songs and chatter.  Currently back at Bice Dorms, students are brainstorming ideas in their project groups for the paper introduction due  on Friday.

—Hollis Erickson, Waterford

HSLP 2009: Day 4, July 14
Jul 15 2009 - 12:10pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day  4— Tuesday, July  14
Reported by: Ali Sutherland, Grundy

     Today seemed like it was going to be just another day.  I got up at seven-thirty and did all the regular "getting-ready" things: straightened my hair, put on make-up, got dressed, and struggled just to get out the door.  I changed my mind about the day when Mary Deviney did her presentation.  Let's just say that I've never heard anyone be so passionate about a law.  She (like myself) believes that all people are created equal and should not have to go through physical and verbal abuse just because of their job.  She's trying to get code 18.2-426 changed, and she has good reason.  This code (in short form) states that law enforcement and emergency personnel should put up with what others say and do to them just because of their job.  This goes against what this country was built on, and I support Mary and her cause. 
     Next, Ben, Hollis, and myself presented our reading project on the Byrd Machine.  Harry Byrd was a confusing man, but an extremely smart one.  He was able to control the state with such a small amount of people, and it got me thinking: how would this work out in today's world?  With all the forms of media that are available to us, what would be said?  I know that this was in the papers, but there weren't exactly any gossip bloggers challenging him with the facts.  So, in the long run, do I think that the Byrd Machine would work today? No.
     After lunch, Bob Gibson, who is director of the Sorensen Institute, came and spoke to us about his job.  Bob has a fascinating story about his time at UVA and in Virginia politics.  Not only does he do a fabulous job with the Sorensen Institute, he is also a journalist.  I've always loved journalism, and this coming school year, I will be one of three editors for my high school yearbook.  While Bob was talking, I started to think about Tina Fey.  Okay, I know what you're thinking, but Tina Fey went to school at UVA, and I've always loved Weekend Update on SNL.  Seeing as that I'm headmistress of funny here, I think I've found my niche: political comedy.  I love to act, I love politics, and I love journalism.  I could be the next Steven Colbert, Tina Fey, or Amy Phoeler!  The great thing about political comedy is that although it is very well known, it is still not mainstream.  This is definitely something I need to look into as a career.
     After Bob's presentation, April Auger, another member of the Sorensen staff, taught us how to present ourselves.  She had a slideshow of all different kinds of people: goth, punk, preppy... everything!  She also told us to be careful about what we put on the internet, because employers will be checking out our Facebook and MySpace profiles when we apply for jobs.  After this, we all asked her some questions.  Normally, I wouldn't trust anyone else with business fashion, but I trust April because she seems like a very fashionable woman herself.
     I knew that I could check my delegate's voting record on the internet, but I didn't know you could ever go this in depth!  Waldo Jaquith, the man behind Richmond Sunlight (check it out!) seems to have taken Virginia politics by storm.  He's on his way to being at the top of his game, and get this: he's thirty. Thirty, and already this successful?  I want to know his secret.  He is also extremely funny, which made his presentation even better.  I'm going to start checking his website often once I get my internet back.
     So, was today a normal day?  No— it was a great day!  Actually, it's a great week!  I've been so blessed to meet all of my fellow young politicians this week.  I've never met anyone else my age with so much enthusiasm for something so important.  I (like most of the others here) hope to go to UVA after high school. It sounds crazy, but I already feel like we're best friends.  These are people who I can have a mature conversation with, but still goof around with at the same time.  Aren't those the best kinds of friends anyway?

—Ali Sutherland, Grundy

HSLP 2009: Day 4, July 14
Jul 15 2009 - 11:57am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day  4— Tuesday, July  14
Reported by: Aya Ibrahim of Annandale High School, Annandale

     The morning started off rocky as my roommate and I decided to stay in bed for just two minutes after our alarm clock went off. Two minutes soon turned into an hour and we woke up shocked to discover we had fallen back asleep. Luckily we had planned for such an event and were able to get dressed and get downstairs on time.  We walked to class and started with speaker Mary Loose DeViney. We had a lengthy debate about Mrs. DeViney’s attempt to amend the Curse and Abuse statute to specifically include police officers and emergency personnel. The issue was near and dear to her heart as her brother-in-law was a police officer.
     After she wrapped up we had a brief discussion about the UVA college credit we receive for doing the program and how to request a transcript. That information would come in handy when we started applying to colleges ourselves. We then jumped to reading group presentations. The presentations broke down the main points of the reading and posed questions for our discussion. We took a break for lunch and came back revitalized and ready for more learning.
     Bob Gibson followed and shared with us his wealth of knowledge of Virginia and federal politics. The media, his time at UVA, and even the benefits of having women allowed in to the university were just some of the many topics we covered. Every few minutes someone would interrupt with a question but Mr. Gibson, a respected journalist for 30 years, seemed to enjoy it. He had an amazing grasp of the current problems we faced and posed possible solutions for all them.
     They say first impressions are everything and with our next speaker, April Auger, that old saying was affirmed. Despite technical difficulties with her power point we were able to get started when Joe saved the day. We looked at ridiculous pictures, some eerily similar to the profile pictures of some of our friends, and talked about the effect of their image. After more discussion and some fashion tips (Black, navy and dark gray project power and authority) we waited for our next speaker.
     Rob Bell was scheduled to speak to us but unfortunately he was stuck in court. Mr. Gibson stepped up and entertained our questions while we waited. Mr. Bell never came, but we still had another speaker. Waldo Jaquith, web designer and blogger extraordinaire, was super savvy with computers but also very informed. He had us laughing through his entire presentation while jumping from website to website. He explained these sites were transparency websites. One of those websites was www.vpap.org,  which you can look up any donation made to any candidate by any person in Virginia. We learned that one of Terry McAuliffe’ s biggest donors was none other than the producer of the Power Rangers himself, Haim Saben. He finished up his presentation by taking us to his website and after some questions he said his goodbyes.  Exhausted and feeling a million times smarter than when we first walked in, we left class and walked to Bice Hall.

— Aya Ibrahim, Annandale

HSLP 2009: Day 3, July 13
Jul 14 2009 - 1:13pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 3—Monday, July 13, 2009
Reported by: Callie Guy, Richmond

     This morning we roused ourselves for the first day of classes. We hiked to class 3 different ways. They were all uphill too, if this keeps up my glutes are going to get soooooo toned. When we finally arrived to class it was about 9:30. An ethics discussion with Marc Johnson and a resume workshop with Barbara Kessler were on the agenda for this morning. They both had really interesting things to say. Marc had some really good insights on what constitutes an ethical dilemma. I’m sure they’ll be very helpful as we continue on with our careers, political or otherwise. Barbara Kessler’s presentation was especially relevant and helpful considering that the majority of us are applying to college this year. The lectures were very discussion based, and that interaction made the 9-to-5 class schedule way more manageable than I was expecting. Our classes are in the science building, so when Hollis and I took a bathroom break we saw some helium tanks in a lab and thought it would be totally hilarious if we gave a presentation with chipmunk voices.
     We had a working lunch where we discussed the major problems in our local areas and statewide to address in our final group projects. It was fascinating to hear what people from other areas thought needed addressing and to see that there were some issues that were prevalent statewide such as education while there were other problems specific to certain regions such as traffic problems in Hampton and Northern VA. I really enjoyed that the discussions we have here are thoughtful and respectful, and I’m excited to be a part of a group of students with a really great vision for all the potential our commonwealth has.
    This afternoon Delegate Chris Saxman of the General Assembly was our guest speaker. Although I am not a fan of his work with the John McCain campaign and I disagree with many of his positions, I enjoyed his presentation. He is an engaging speaker and told funny stories. We finished the day with hamburgers and Easy Mac for dinner and it’s early to bed tonight because I am wiped out.

—Callie Guy, Richmond

HSLP 2009: Day 3, July 13
Jul 14 2009 - 1:04pm

High School Leaders Program
Day 3— Monday July 13, 2009
Reported by Whitney Hosey of Riverbend High School, Fredericksburg, VA

            Arriving downstairs bright and early at 8:30 a.m., the members of the High School Leaders Program followed diligently behind Andrew as we made our way to the first day of class. Clad in business professional in the midst of a humid morning in Charlottesville, we trudged our way up the hill from Bice Hall toward Thornton Hall where we were to meet Mr. Marc Johnson for our first lesson: ethics in politics. After a brief PowerPoint, the discussion began. Now, ethics is something we certainly do not all agree on; however, we all made sure to keep our comments intelligent and cordial, which I must say is not always how our older counterparts on Capitol Hill behave. After our group discussions about how ethics affects lawmaking, how to solve ethical dilemmas, and how to make the right decision in an ethical dilemma, our second guest speaker, Mrs. Barbara Kessler arrived to give us a resume workshop. While with us, she discussed what to include in a resume as well as a suggested format that impresses not only colleges, but possible employers as well. Mrs. Kessler provided us with some great tips to make sure our resume impresses anyone who sees it as well as covers any necessary and pertinent information they may need. Upon Mrs. Kessler’s departure, we broke for our working lunch. While enjoying our time outdoors, we discussed local issues with others from our area; Natalie Cruise and I were responsible for Fredericksburg. Upon our return April Auger had joined our group and decided to get involved in our discussions by writing each of our topics on the board. We had been responsible for identifying problems in our areas, strengths, and weaknesses, and one overall statewide problem that should be fixed. While doing this we began to discover something, all of our problems were different, and so when the question was posed which problem was the most important, we had to consider something: all of our areas had different problems, but which one was the most important to everyone. This is the problem law makers face everyday. After a bit of a heated debate and some compromise we all decided education was our main concern, so the discussion went off from there. After our power lunch, Mr. Johnson had another presentation to show us about Virginia as a whole, its people, economy, geography, and fun facts. Our discussion moved into the next section of class. Here Emma, Trevor, and Maria presented their discussion about The Washington Post articles written by Mr. David Finkle, and Mr. David Von Drehle. The articles, written in 2004, compared two extremist families from both the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party. Overall, we decided that the authors of the articles wanted to show America how silly the stereotypes we use to describe political parties. We also discussed how Virginia’s political culture was changing from a Republican Southern State to possibly being a bit more to the left in years to come. The majority of us agreed, once a Red always a red. Only time will tell how Virginia’s vote will swing. Our final activity of the day was guest speaker Delegate Chris Saxman, a Republican. Mr. Saxman gave us a brief overview of his political experience, and Virginia legislature as a whole, and then we were able to ask our own questions for the remainder of the hour.
            My favorite part of the day was definitely Mr. Saxman’s question-and-answer session. I believe he was very respectful and helpful when answering our questions, and he did not treat us like children and give dishonest or childish answers. He also was kind enough to share personal information, and stayed behind for a bit to discuss any further questions we may have had. Personally, I think that the program will only get better as the time goes on. I can only say that I am honored and blessed to be with such a fine group of young adults.

—Whitney Hosey of Riverbend High School, Fredericksburg, VA

HSLP 2009: Day 2, July 12
Jul 14 2009 - 12:49pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 2—Sunday, July 12, 2009
Reported by: Ann Laurence Baumer, Virginia Beach

     As another Sorensen student put it, “It started off like middle school all over again.” We were all unsure of what exactly to expect but excited for a new beginning and a new adventure. After a fun night of ice cream and Apples to Apples, today promised at least getting to know an amazing group of people. The schedule reads: Ropes Course at Poplar Ridge 9am-5pm. That’s 8 hours of ropes and although I have been through some courses before, and all-day event was sure to be different. It definitely was. To wake up the sluggish teenagers (the alarm went off at 8 this morning!), our instructors Rick and Dana immediately had us running and subsequently sweating or more precisely “glistening” with activities such as amoeba tag. At 87ish degrees and humidity similar to where I live at the beach, it was hot. Fortunately though, we were shaded by the trees and having too much fun to really even notice.
     After tag came the blindfold game. Paired up, one partner was positioned outside of a circle to direct their blindfolded buddy around the inside towards Fisher Price foam toys that had to then be aimed and thrown at other blindfolded kids. While inside the circle I managed to trip over one of my suitemates who was crawling around, sending us both into a fit of laughter. Very entertaining, this activity was just the beginning of a team-building day. We were then split up into two groups. My group, the Pirates and obviously superior team, started off with low ropes before lunch followed by Nessie (short for the Loch Ness Monster) and the swing in the afternoon. I am involved in many different clubs and organizations in my community and can honestly say that I cannot remember working with a group as easily. Coming from different areas with diverse backgrounds, we all learned from each other while relating to similar high school experiences. From whale watching to being shackled by pirates and having to lift all 16 members through a poisonous spider web, we worked extremely well and quickly conquered every new challenge. Our muscle-man director Tom kept us going with the enthusiasm and optimism expressed by every member of our group. I am so proud of everyone for facing fears and staying committed to each other.  We succeeded as a team, and then came lunch.
     I discovered today that Bodo’s Bagels makes my favorite sandwiches. Followed by oreos, we were ready to take on the heights. Our next adventure involved all hands on deck…or more accurately on ropes. Nessie’s true spirit cannot be truly described. It was an experience to say the least.  Up about 2,000 feet (okay…it was around 20) in the air, two people started from facing platforms and swung from logs to end up where their partner started.  Catherine and I swung across in record time— long legs and being the third set to go gave us a decent advantage.  Making the journey across Nessie required all group members to participate fully and cooperate together. Positive communication proved vital to our progress, and I learned that everything involved in our day on the ropes could be applied to leadership and politics. Teamwork and respect are vital in order to get projects completed.
     Sorensen immediately started off as a nonpartisan program and we have been asked to keep our political preferences to ourselves. Saturday morning I would have assumed this was meant to keep our discussions more objective but already it has become so much more. I didn’t think that the stereotypes and predisposed associations that immediately come to mind about members of the opposition party would have an effect on our impressions until that aspect was taken away. We are getting to know each other with respect and I really appreciate it. With a little (actually a great deal) of dirt on my shoes, I had an amazing day and cannot begin to imagine what lies ahead. One thing I know for sure is that I walk my Sorensen path with 32 amazing, uplifting personalities who I am proud and glad to have met.

—Ann Laurence Baumer, Virginia Beach

Featured Alumni

  • Andy Block.jpg

    Andy Block

    Political Leaders Program

    Class of 2006

    Andy is the director of the U.Va. Law School's Child Advocacy Clinic.

    From 1998 to the spring of 2010 he was the founder and legal director of the JustChildren Program of the Legal Aid Justice Center, a program that represents low-income children across the Commonwealth of Virginia.