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High School Leaders
High School Leaders Program Class of 2008
Day 12, Wednesday, July 23
Reported by: Khadeeja Ashai, Kimberly Quick, and James Paulose
Today was a really great day since we went to Richmond. The day began early as we had to be on the bus by 7:30. After that we were off to the state's capital. When we got to the Capitol building, we went to one of the committee rooms. We learned that the new visitors' entrance and museum is actually underground.
Inside, we were able to listen to numerous speakers, the first of which was Ms. Christie Bieber, a representative from the Virginia Young Democrats. She told us about how she became interested in politics in her freshman year of college and stressed the importance of civic involvement in any way, especially by voting and registering others to vote. After her, we listened to Ms. Eva Hardy who explained to us the inside story of what actually happens in the Capitol building. Her experiences were especially enlightening since she has worked with both Former Governors Chuck Robb and Gerald Baliles.
We had lunch after hearing these two speakers. However, when we got back from lunch, we were in for a pleasant and honorable surprise. Former Lt. Governor John Hager had come to speak to us. He told us of his incredible life story including how after he became inflicted with polio, his political career took off. Seeing how he had come so far was an inspiration. He even told us a little bit about his son's wedding to First Daughter Jenna Bush.
We later heard from Attorney General Bob McDonnell (see photo). We were struck by how personable and charismatic he really is. Although he could only stay for a brief period of time, he answered as many questions as he possibly could, even those relating to his upcoming bid for the Republican nomination for governor in 2009. We then went on a short tour of the newly renovated Capitol building. We did not know that the Senate and House of Delegates are so divided until we went on the tour. We even saw a picture of Lt. Governor Hager in the Senate. We went on to hear from two lobbyists from the consulting firm McGuire Woods. They helped us to see that not all lobbyists fit the stereotype of being unethical and misleading. Our day at the Capitol ended with a talk from a lawyer from the Attorney General's office, Eric Gregory. He amused us by telling us of his most interesting case which involved the illegal possession of monkeys.
We had an amazing dinner at Max and Erma's where a man made balloon animals for us. Finally, we were on our way home where we are now, all busy putting the finishing touches on our culminating project papers which are due tomorrow morning! We are looking forward to an exciting last few days at Sorensen.
—Khadeeja Ashai of Yorktown, York High School Class of 2009
Kimberly Quick of Chesterfield, Maggie L. Walker Governor's School Class of 2010
Today was by far one of the most informative and fun days of our two-week Sorensen experience. We had the great opportunity to travel to our state capital in Richmond where we learned the ins and outs about policymaking in Virginia. The day also provided us with a chance to bond closer together as a group as we also elected Caroline Wulf as our Class Chair and Martina Hairston as our graduation speaker this Saturday.
Our first speaker was Christie Bieber of The Young Democrats. Mrs. Bieber gave us much insight into the Young Democrats organization which works to attract and inform citizens from the age of 13-35 about the Democratic platform. What fascinated me more, however, was her prioritization of registering all possible voters, especially youths, even if some of them were to vote Republican.
Next, we heard from Eva Hardy from the Dominion Resources Company. Mrs. Hardy, provided insight into her analysis of policymaking in Virginia, having worked inside the state government in the past. It was interesting to see how she currently works to influence policy by serving outside the policymaking spectrum as a lobbyist for Dominion Resources. Her talk about such virtues as honesty, listening, and communication, provided the basis for conducting ourselves as informed citizens in the democratic process.
We broke for lunch and then heard from former Lieutenant Governor John Hager who played a key role in Virginia following the 9/11 attacks by serving as the Virginia security liaison to the federal government.
Our class then had the distinguished honor of hearing from Attorney General Bob McDonnell. Though his time with us was brief, Attorney General McDonnell provided us with a truly unique experience as he discussed the aspects of his role in Virginia government. His insightful responses to our questions ranging from policymaking to his own beliefs and platform for his campaign as Governor in 2009 further strengthened our passion for Virginia government.
After meeting with Attorney General McDonnell our class then had the privilege of taking a tour of the majestic capital of our proud state. During the tour, we viewed the chamber of the House of Delegates, the Senate Chamber, the Old House Chamber, and the rotunda containing all eight Virginia-born presidents. The awe-inspiring beauty of the capital itself was enough to intrigue us, but the profound history behind the capital was even more interesting.
The tour ended with our final group of speakers. Jeff Britt and Felix Sarfo-Kantanka of McGuireWoods Consulting talked to us about the role of lobbying in Virginia. Finally, we heard from Eric Gregory, Assistant Attorney General, who added much to what Attorney General McDonnell shared about the role of the office in state government.We ended our excursion with a great dinner at Max & Erma’s and then enjoyed the bus ride back to campus which gave us more time to bond together as friends. Tonight is the final night before our culminating group project papers are due, and so we will be making one final push for completing that.
With only three days left, it is exhilarating to sit back and think about how much of an influence this program has had on me. Not only have I learned so much about Virginia politics itself, but I have also attained a great experience by interacting everyday with my fellow classmates whom I have the honor of calling my friends. I absolutely cannot wait to see what tomorrow holds in store for us.
— James Paulose of Fredericksburg, James Monroe High School Class of 2010
High School Leaders Program Class of 2008
Day 11, Tuesday, July 22
Reported by: Mitch Caudill and Emily Marshall
Today was definitely the best day so far at Sorensen, if such a distinguishing mark is possible. Nothing beats waking up and seeing the faces of peers who, while tired from a late night of paper writing and revising, are ready for a new day ahead. After arriving to class an hour earlier then normal we were presented with our challenge. Divided into groups to simulate the House and Senate of the General Assembly, we were tasked with balancing a $1 billion dollar budget deficit. There were moments of haggling, moments of bargaining, moments of despair but finally, somehow, after two hours, both the House and the Senate passed budgets that provided not only for the deficit but fixed Virginia’s transportation problem as well. Sadly, they did so in different ways. Thus we divided into Conference Committees to sort out the problem, and after two more hours of negotiation reached a solution and passed the budget with applause. While we may not all have learned how to win friends and influence people, we all did learn the importance of compromise and trade-offs, as well as the general importance of a variety of issues to ourselves and the Commonwealth. Sadly though, we had to say good-bye to Dr. Shields (since this was our last class with him), who had encouraged our thoughts and expanded our knowledge about public policy and the process that forms it. Then utterly exhausted and definitely hungry, we proceeded to lunch where old rivalries still heated up and one could hear the occasional muttering of taxes vs. spending cuts, and transportation vs. education.
After being nourished, we had a full slate of speakers in the afternoon, each offering a unique perspective. The Charlottesville Chief of Police spoke candidly about his job, and our roles in concept of communal policing. His ideas and points are applicable to nearly all future occupations, as he talked about building relationships and trust within the community, knowing the history and values of an area in order to participate, and the current dynamics of Charlottesville. The city Registrar talked of the current voting regulations and encouraged active citizenship and voter registration. Her knowledge and insight to the job of an election worker on Election Day made all of us appreciate the tremendous amount of work they do. Not only that, Helen was able to fill out her Voter Registration form to be able to vote in November’s election.
Finally, Dr. Haidt of the University of Virginia spoke about morality as it relates to politics. An Associate Professor of Psychology, Dr. Haidt shared with us his hypothesis that traces certain principles of morality in conjunction with political leaning and found that liberals and conservatives value different principles of the same moral system. His lecture encouraged us to transcend our everyday notions to try and understand others viewpoints in order to collaborate in society, which fits with everything we’ve learned about the value of civil discussion here at Sorensen.
Sitting here now, it seems hard to believe that there are only four more days left. Those who seemed so new a short week ago are now close friends who we count on for collaboration in projects, advice, late night conversation and so much more. While it’s hard to imagine Sorensen ending, it’s easy to think of all the things we’ll do together in the future.
— Mitch Caudill of Midlothian, Maggie Walker Governor's School Class of 2010
Today was actually my favorite day in the Sorensen HSLP so far! My day started off fabulously as I had three bowls of Lucky Charms before walking to class at 8 a.m. although my roommate had to ever so politely get me out of bed like she always does. Today we ended Lens 2: The Thoughtful Citizen with a fantastic game, the Budget Game. It was the perfect ending to my favorite class at Sorensen. Dr. Shields divided the thirty-two of us into two groups, the House of Delegates and the Senate, and gave us guidelines to forming a typical Virginia Budget. Although my mom is on the School Board in Henrico Country and constantly talked about how difficult forming the yearly budget was in January, I never really thought too much about it. What could be hard about adding and subtracting some numbers, right? Wrong.
Forming Virginia's budget in the Senate, the house I was assigned to, was extremely hard. We had lots of trouble compromising on where to cut the billion dollars worth of funding to get out of deficit, as we did not all agree on what programs and issues were important. After almost two hours of debating and compromising we finally reached an agreement that raised taxes slightly, but that did not cut any education or Medicare related programs, staying reasonably close to what the real Senate values to be important. Once the Senate and the House had made their separate budgets, we had the difficult task of combining the two budgets together. Surprisingly we had a lot of the same ideas on what was important and what was not as important, although we agreed on many of the same issues. We worked hard and prevailed in the end, and the budget that my team devised was voted the winner.
Later we had three speakers come talk to us about three very interesting but different topics. Sheri Iachetta spoke to us about managing elections, as she is one of 134 Registrars in Virginia. I was surprised to learn how complicated organizing an election really is. Mrs. Iachetta puts hours upon hours into her job, as well as many very late nights. We also heard from Jonathan Haidt, who spoke about Moralistic Politics. This discussion was very interesting to me as we discussed different aspects of conservative and liberal party divides, and tried to understand why good people are divided by politics and religion. We talked about how America is becoming a nation of separate political cultures, and we discussed Mr. Haidt's five moral mind foundations: harm and care. fairness and reciprocity, in-group loyalty, authority and respect, and finally purity and sanctity. We discussed how different parties might value each of these differently. My favorite speaker of the day was Charlottesville Chief of Police Tim Longo. Chief Longo talked to us about how he was a product of experience. He really emphasized getting to know as many people in your community as possible, because stopping crime is more than just arresting people. Chief Longo was very candid with his answers to questions, which I appreciated.
Today was a great day, and I am looking forward to our trip to the capitol tomorrow. I have made a lot of friends here at Sorensen that I have become really close with even though its only been a little more than a week. Although this is a demanding curriculum that requires a lot of hard work and effort, I have loved every minute of it.
— Emily Marshall of Richmond, Douglas Southall Freeman High School Class of 2010
High School Leaders Program Class of 2008
Day 10, Monday, July 21
Reported by: Ladi Smith and Kevin Xiao
The day began as any other day, except for one thing. Some would say that the special thing is the fact that everyone was wearing business-professional clothing for the group picture. But one glance at the group showed evidence of sunburns on everyone; the tubing excursion left battle marks on backs and burns on fronts. The group trooped to the classroom at 8:45am. The lecture/seminar with Dr. Shields picked up where we had left off the previous Saturday: do we, as citizens, value the security of our communities or do we value the liberty that the Constitution provides us? We then discussed the Dilon's Rule, where we got into a debate if local governments should only have the power that the state grants them, or if they should have all powers except those that the state reserves for itself. Both sides made convincing arguments.
After the deliberations by our class, we looked into the different flavors of local government (city council with manager/mayor, town council with manager, and board of supervisors with county manager) as well as the staggered-terms phenomenon and small councils. We also looked at annexation and two sections of the Voting Rights Act. Then the fun, big debate came: "strong" mayor or "weak" mayor? The class was evenly split, and an ad hoc panel was created (Team Mitch-David for the "strong" mayor and Team Colin-Emily for the "weak "mayor). Again, both sides made amazing arguments and analyzed the issue thoroughly. In the end, we finally realized the real world of politics and came to a bipartisan solution – neither was better.
After our morning session and our delicious lunch (we Sorensen students never get tired of sandwiches!), we listened to Gordon Walker, our guest speaker for today. He has been the executive director and chief executive officer of the Jefferson Area Board for Aging (JABA) since 1982. He educated us on aging and the rising danger America’s health care system faces if we do not make drastic changes while we still have the chance. He told us about the 2020 plan which, among other things, promotes coordinated and accessible health care, supports maximum independence for the elderly, and enhances transportation opportunities for the elderly. (Props to Mitch for knowing the details of the book Boomsday). We were also introduced to the budget game by our professor. In this game we face the task of balancing the state budget. We were put on either the Senate or the House teams and must collectively work together to balance the budget and make it as fair as possible. We nominated chairman (Ladi for the House, Emma for the Senate), a recorder (Andrew for the House, Khadeeja for the Senate) and also an assistant recorder (Caitlin for the House, Sirishia for the Senate).
After our speaker talked to us and the budget game had been announced, the Sorenson group went to the Rotunda to take our individual and class photos. While standing on the Rotunda steps, we were all instructed to run down it while the photographer took the picture. The group flocked down the stairs; girls weary of their heels, guys tired of their ties! Tonight we will finish by working fiercely on our culminating projects.
— Ladi Smith of Charlottesville, St.Anne's Belfield School Class of 2009
Kevin Xiao of Glen Allen, Maggie Walker Governor’s School Class of 2009
High School Leaders Program Class of 2008
Day 9, Sunday, July 20
Reported by: Benjamin Ries and Mary Kathryn Atkinson
After a long week of informative classes, we finally got a day off. Well, sort of. By the end of the day we were all hard at work, trying to complete the first draft of our group projects, which are due Tuesday. For most, the day began around noon after a rare chance to sleep in. Many Sorensenites took the opportunity to do their own laundry while some bribed others to do it for them. After getting up, everyone made sure to put on swim gear for the day’s tubing excursion.
At noon we left for the James River and ate lunch on the bus. We were surprised to find our transportation to be an adorable city bus rather than the typical Abbott bus we were used to. After a 45-minute drive, we arrived at the James River. Some of us forgot closed-toed water shoes and had to resort to wearing old sneakers instead. We put on some sunscreen (although, as many found out later, not nearly enough) and started down the river.
We soon learned that the river was rather shallow and contained many vicious rocks. Nevertheless, the gentle current carried us slowly down the James, giving us all a chance to relax and clear our minds. As we traveled through the three-and-a-half hour trip some grew restless, including Richard, who successfully knocked Madison out of her float. The two Marries (Mary Kathryn and Maribel) finished at the head of the pack, followed by the nature-loathing Martina, Ladi, Joi, Nathalie, and Amber.
Our exhausted group sat back and enjoyed the drive back to Charlottesville. Some even enjoyed a quick nap. Upon returning, we were greeted with a delicious feast of Chinese food. Everyone (hopefully) took a shower and spent the evening working on group projects. Quite a few of us were sunburned all over from spending several hours in the midday sun. All pains aside, it was a great day, and we are looking forward to our final week!
— Benjamin Ries of Roanoke, Patrick Henry High School Class of 2009
Mary Kathryn Atkinson of Java, Chatham Hall Class of 2010
High School Leaders Program Class of 2008
Day 8, Saturday, July 19
Reported by: Colin Harris and Emma Yackso
The day got a slow start; everyone got to sleep in for the first time. Many of us awoke shortly after noon to the smell of warm pizza being delivered for lunch. This meal was followed by a lot of meandering about the building and listening to 80’s music. We wandered on over to the classroom around 2:30 to hear Dr. Shields discuss the definition of public policy, followed by a class discussion on race in politics. Civil liberties, market versus polis, John Stuart (Mill), and other topics also made appearances. We returned to Bice at 5:30 for a chicken and pasta dinner. Everyone is looking forward to tubing tomorrow.
— Colin Harris of Orlean, Sidwell Friends School Class of 2009
Today was a relatively low-key day, as far as political boot-camp goes. We were finally allowed to catch up on sleep after working hard all week long. Although our class was delayed today, it was well worth the wait. We attended our second session of The Thoughtful Citizen which is proving to be an extremely well-liked course. We began class by discussing the definition of public policy, focusing mostly on whether or not it had to include government. Although we never reached a consensus, the arguments put forth were very convincing. We then moved to discuss the issue of security vs. individual liberties in which we weighed the importance of both. We also discussed whether it was possible to return liberties after they were taken away in the name of security. Our class ended with a short but informative discussion of whether or not America was ready to elect an African-American man President. This discussion was based on one that Dr. Shields had had earlier that morning. Although our discussion was cut short by time, the main focus was on the role of stereotypes in the upcoming election. We then were allowed the rest of the night to work on our Cumulative Projects and explore the town a bit. Although the activities for the day were shorter than other days, today was just as informative and inspiring.
— Emma Yackso of Charlottesville, Charlottesville High School Class of 2009
High School Leaders Program Class of 2008
Daily Update: Day 7, Friday, July 18
Reported by: Sonora Braun and McCullough Roach
Today, we awoke to the last day of the Informed Citizen with Mr. McGuire. After a warm walk to the Engineering Building, we settled down to a morning of article presentations which sparked numerous discussions about the Governor's power compared to that of other components of Virginia's government. Then, we split into groups and made clever 'radio spots' favoring either Obama or McCain that targeted various audiences throughout Virginia. These were then critiqued by the class, and any areas of extreme or inappropriate content were pointed out. Altogether, many of these soundbytes could easily have been from actual campaigns.
At lunch, we split into groups of six or more, each having one member of each culminating project topic. In these groups, we discussed each issue and proposed solution so that we could better understand the difficulties of each project. We returned to the classroom, where two College Republicans from Mary Washington University awaited us. Rebeka Blackwell and Samantha Bradshaw were both very informative and showed us how being a Republican can be on a mainly liberal campus. They also told us about the various functions, campaigns, and opportunities that they had attained because of the College Republican organization.
We met our new teacher, Dr. Tom Shields, who began class with a discussion regarding the 'social capital' decline in America since the mid-1900's. The class finally agreed that technology had made social capital sprawl and morph into a new type of community throughout the world. Then, we discussed the difference between 'Polis' and the 'Market' societies and pinpointed words that were associated with each type. This class was very interactive and sparked one of the most thought-out debates we had ever seen in a classroom.
Once we returned to the dorms, we rode the trolley for a nice dinner downtown and walked around this cultural hotspot. Then, after our routine Starbucks run, we returned for a night of Fight Club and popcorn. Altogether, another successful day at Sorensen!
—Sonora Braun of Roanoke, Patrick Henry High School Class of 2009
McCullough Roach of Amarillo, TX, Woodberry Forrest Class of 2009
High School Leaders Program Class of 2008
Day 6, Thursday, July 17
Reported by: Maribel Castaneda and Daniel Hivick
8:30am: After finally peeling myself from the comfort of my bed, I was able to shower, get ready, and head down to join my fellow Sorensen classmates. Once we all gathered in the lobby, our walk to the classroom began.
9:00am: We finally arrived at our destination and hung out until our speaker arrived. After a couple of minutes, Helen Jones presented our speaker Ms. Connie Jorgenson. Her expertise is in drafting legislation and knowing the do's and don'ts when trying to convert a bill into law. In the middle of her speech, I realized how much time and patience it really takes to have such high stakes on a bill. The insight Ms. Jorgenson gave us is definitely worth to share with the rest of the world:
-Start a bill as soon as possible and not during January.
-Prepare for the opposition.
-NO. You'll hear it. Keep your dignity.
-Avoid getting "single-issue-itis." Definition: Thinking your issue is the most important.
10:30am: After Ms. Jorgenson's presentation, we earned a break and unleashed our rowdy selves. After not-a-long-time, we settled back in our seats and turned our attention to John Barber who introduced Ms. Barbara Kessler. What Ms. Kessler brought was Resume Class 101. Most of us are college-bound juniors and seniors who will soon be starting the application process. It's definitely good to have a well-composed resume that shows our best selves. Many asked questions in order to perfect their resumes and were very appreciative of the feedback they received. At the end, Ms. Kessler told the class that she would take a copy of our current resumes and edit them. We're well on our way to success!
12:00pm: LUNCH. Enough said.
1:00pm: After satisfying our stomachs with tasty sandwiches, we returned to class and Caitlin Saloka introduced our last speaker for the day, Waldo Jaquith. Mr. Jaquith introduced us to the wild world of blogging. He showed us many political blogs that exist around the Commonwealth of Virginia and gave us examples of good and bad blogs maintained by politicians. A respectable political blog shows personality and minimal entries that deal a whole lot with actual politics. A poor developed blog contains a lot of political information. It further supported what we've been learning regarding the media. It related to the presentations that Mr. Coy Barefoot and Ms. Amy Gardner gave earlier this week.
2:30pm: Mr.McGuire came back to finish off the day with a fun-filled class taking a chisel to the Constitution. It led to many thought-provoking debates about Virginia's policies and what we would do to reform them. Hands shot up as many wanted to speak on bills regarding religion and state.
5:00pm: As soon as class ended, most of the students went straight to the library to work on their culminating projects. The day for us ended with the anticipation of tomorrow's basket of didacticism.
– The dart game continues. We've recruited more! Mwahahaha!
– Colin and Daniel made an excursion to Barracks Road to acquire Cheerwine. Congratulations fellas!
– We learned about dentistry through a blogger… it was strange… and informative…
– Maribel and J.R. got lost in the library. Beware of the stacks.
– Salmon for dinner.
– Rice for dinner. Kevin was excited.
— Maribel Castaneda of Harrisonburg, Harrisonburg High School Class of 2008
Daniel Hivick of Keswick, Oxford Washington School Class of 2009
Members of the High School Leaders Program Class of 2008 with former Virginia Governor and U.S. Senate candidate Mark Warner
High School Leaders Program Class of 2008
Day 5, Wednesday, July 16
Reported by: Sirisha Iruvanti, Caroline Wulf, and Jimmy Underhill
Today we woke up extraordinarily early to get on the bus and make our way to the exciting city of Alexandria. We started our day with a very “politically-appropriate-across the aisle” and enlightening presentation from Mr. Will Payne, the Executive Director for Virginians for Warner. Next came a pleasantly surprising visit from former Governor Mark Warner. We listened in awe to the Governor’s various discussions on the importance of crossing the line to bipartisan party politics and seeing ourselves as not just Republicans, and not just Democrats, but as proud Virginians. For the first time this week, every single one of us was determined to fully participate and, as the Governor put it, “Ask away!” Some of our lucky classmates included the ever-inquisitive Mitch Caudill, the all-knowing Colin Harris, and several others. After a life-changing discussion with “HIS EXCELLENCY, THE GOVERNOR," we met Kristie Helmick and Kala Quintana, both of whom were passionate about the vital debate about Virginia’s transportation issues.
Afterwards, we gathered outside the city hall fountain to replenish our hungering brains and bellies. Environmentally-conscious Maribel and Kevin made sure the birds and the recycling bin did not get left out in the replenishing. Full and satisfied, we made our way back to the beautiful City Hall, and met with Amy Gardner of the Washington Post. After that, Delegate Margie Vanderhye shared her thoughts about the perils of the Transportation Special Session. At last, we met the “ever-invigorating” Mr. Lance Mallano, who provided us with extremely precise historically significant information about the City itself, Alexandria. As we sit here pondering the “ever-eventful” events of the day, a last and final thought comes to our minds, “So…what DO we do about the transportation problem?!”
— Sirisha Iruvanti of Yorktown, Tabb High School Class of 2009
Caroline Wulf of Virginia Beach, Princess Anne High School Class of 2009
Today was our first of two field trips with the Sorensen Institute. Today we went to Alexandria in Northern Virginia. I woke up at 6:35, giving me just enough time to wash up, put on my suit and eat two poptarts before meeting downstairs at 7:00. We rode the bus for about 2 hours before arriving at town hall in Alexandria. Our first speaker was Will Payne, a representative for the Mark Warner senatorial campaign. Mr. Payne explained the importance of character and party loyalties. Following Mr. Payne's address we enjoyed a special visit from former governor Mark Warner himself. I was very impressed with Governor Warner's ability to address touchy issues in detail like the problem of healthcare. After the Governor was done speaking we had a photo-op and took several pictures with "his excellencey." Next we were addressed by Kale Quintana and Kristie Helmick about one of the major problems in the Commonwealth of Virginia, transportation. It was especially interesting to hear from Ms. Helmick because she was very passionate about helping the Commonwealth.
Finally we had a pleasant lunch of gourmet sandwiches and beverages. Lunch was especially nice because after eating we had a good amount of time to explore Old Town Alexandria and learn about that particular region of Virginia. After lunch Amy Gardner came to talk to us about the media and politics. It was very interesting to hear her perspective working with a major media corporation. We also learned to be careful using the media because it can be very easy to offend or slander without really realizing it. Next Delegate Vanderhye came to speak about her experience coming out of the Sorensen Institute and then running for and winning office. Her experiences were very insightful and helpful for anyone with the intention of running for public office in the future.
Our last speaker changed the subject from politics. Instead about talking about the media or transportation, we learned about the history of Alexandria and how the city evolved over time to become one of the most historically significant towns in Virginia today. Finally we all loaded up on the bus and drove to Hard Times Cafe for dinner, then continued back to Bice hall to complete the day's activities.
— Jimmy Underhill of McLean, Langley High School Class of 2009
High School Leaders Program Class of 2008
Day 4, Tuesday, July 15
Reported by: Nathalie Navarrete and Andrew Werner
Today’s sunny July morning brought about an air of enthusiasm to the students who were on their way to learning about the history of Virginia politics. Following yesterday’s talk on the way Virginia has acted as a key state in many important national political issues, we learned about the Byrd political machine and the way it influenced citizens. We later discussed the reasons for Virginia’s abrupt shift in voting patterns and how the state of Mississippi’s trend toward the GOP compared to Virginia’s.
After lunch we were honored with the visit of Coy Barefoot, who taught us how to set up a successful political campaign following seven key points. Barefoot’s visit helped us better understand the work behind a candidate’s campaign and how the media plays a key role in politics.
The second part of the Informed Citizen class encouraged us to analyze the Constitution of Virginia and think about what should be changed and why. We worked in groups where we each had the chance to share his or her views.
We ended today's class by discussing how stereotypes often keep citizens from joining political parties, and asking ourselves what would it be like if the electorate was well informed about the different platforms that our presidential candidates bring to the table.
We later made our way to the UVA Corner where we all celebrated a classmate’s birthday— making today another successful day for the 2008 Sorensen high school students.
— Nathalie Navarrete of Alexandria, T.C. Williams High School Class of 2009
The powers that be assigned a complete reading of the Virginia constitution this morning. Following a late night of revelry we made our way to class with weary eyes. Mary Kathryn, Mitch, and Colin kicked off the morning with their explanation of Mark J. Rozell's article about the changing political landscape in our fascinating commonwealth. The article told much of Virginia's political history from the Byrd organization and the one-party system through Governor Wilder and up to the mid-1990's. Extensive discussion ensued. Following that, Sonora, Joi, and Michelle presented their opinions on their assigned speech by former Governor Linwood Holton about the current state of the Republican party and its future. The following talks, again mediated by Mr. Maguire, were both extraordinarily interesting and informative and proved even more polarizing and generated even better discussion.
We ate lunch after which we were greeted by Bob Gibson, the head of Sorensen. Mr. Gibson introduced himself and told us that tomorrow we'd be meeting with former Governor Mark Warner while in Alexandria (pretty awesome). Mr. Gibson was followed by an incredibly enthralling presentation by Coy Barefoot, a best-selling author and the man in charge of media for the Sorensen Institute. He gave insight into the importance of the media from the politician's point of view and gave us not only tricks of the trade but also invaluable information we never would have learned about how politicians work with the modern media.
Mr. Maguire then divided the class and gave each group a different article of the state constitution. We were given 40 minutes to write an amendment. My group, consisting of Caitlin, Ladi, and me, were assigned Article X, and we amended Section 6 subsection 2. We then had another group discussion of an assigned article; this time it was headed by Richard, Helen, and Nathalie. When five o'clock struck the end to our debates, we left to celebrate McCullough's seventeenth birthday.
We walked down McCormick Road to the Corner and piled into the Biltmore Grill for the birthday bash. The food was delicious. I had a burger and macaroni and cheese; others at my table ate crab cake sandwiches and chicken fingers. After dinner there was a huge birthday cake and singing. Try as he might, McCoulough just couldn't seem to get all of the candles in a single blow. I'm now off to watch a documentary and complete my deadline for our group project. Tomorrow the bus pulls out at 7 a.m. for a hopefully exciting day in Alexandria!
— Andrew Werner of Norfolk, Norfolk Academy
High School Leaders Program Class of 2008
Day 3, Monday, July 14
Reported by: John Barber and Joi Crenshaw
This morning as my classmates and I walked to class, we did so in anticipation. All of us were eager to meet our speaker. As we entered the room, Mr. McGuire, the first speaker of the day, greeted us. During our three-hour time period together we analyzed and discussed a powerpoint presentation. The powerpoint broke down statistics about various regions across Virginia. Once some of my classmates got more in-depth into the discussion, they began to interact with Mr. McGuire as well as those around them. After our discussion concluded, it was time for lunch. When lunch was over we were broken off into groups separated by the regions in which we live. In those sub-groups conversations arose about the pros and cons of each of our various regions. It was discovered that each region had different pros and cons. Later on this afternoon Chris Saxman joined us. He was quite entertaining, very open, and obviously secure in his beliefs. Before I knew it, the day was finished. It was truly a great beginning, and only a taste of what is to come.
—Joi Crenshaw of J.R. Tucker High School
So, it’s day three, and also our first day of classes, which is pretty exhilarating if I say so myself. We started classes off with “The Informed Citizen” instructed by Mr. Matt McGuire. It was really interesting to talk about the divide of our country according to party affiliation, and Mr. McGuire’s insight on this matter was really informative and helped us to understand some of the information from the Washington Post articles. Next, we discussed a powerpoint showing the demographics, ethnicity, etc. of Virginia and the various regions of the state. I was thoroughly interested in topics such as the problems of the regions, or where the income of the state comes from. We next did an activity that would show us whether our region tended to lean left or right, and also if we had many swing vote attributes.
After lunch, we began work on our Culminating Projects, it was very informative and all the while interesting to see the problems that the other regions had. Some of them were very funny to hear, some were odd, and some made a lot of sense. Though our regions have a lot of differences, there were some strengths and weaknesses that we all share. It was a nice feeling to see that we all worried about the same things, even if we thought differently on some issues. After that it was time to choose the one problem that affected the state the most. The diversity in the problems we saw for the state was a sign that we all are our own people, and don’t just worry about the same things. Finally, before our next speaker came in, we voted on what we would want to work on the most.
Delegate Chris Saxman came in to speak to us (see photo), and I found his lecture to be very good. Delegate Saxman was open to us and treated us like we were adults, yet still had a sense of humor. He was very good at answering questions, and made sure that everyone who had a question got an answer. I thought when he answered that he elaborated on it so well that there wasn’t much need for a further answer, he got to the point basically.
The last thing we did before we left the class was work on our introductions, which was helpful. I enjoyed getting to learn more about everybody such as quirks, hobbies, and other things of the matter. Tonight, we begin research on our Culminating Projects, and also begin the reading for tomorrow’s session of "The Informed Citizen." I’m sure the future will have something exciting in wait for us.
—John Barber of Fluvanna County High School