High School Leaders

HSLP 2009: Day 2, July 12
Jul 14 2009 - 12:06pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 2—Sunday, July 12, 2009
Reported by: Tom Daley of Richmond

     We’ve just managed to survive our first full day at the Sorensen Institute and what a day it was.  As a group we all went to the Poplar Ridge High Ropes Course and engaged in a series of team building games and exercises.
     Many people may find it odd to take a High Ropes course at an institute for leadership in government, but I couldn’t think of a better way to start our program.  For an entire day we left behind politics spent it in the middle of the woods getting to know each other, learning to trust each other, and defying gravity.  The beautiful woods near the grounds were a wonderful setting for today’s adventures.  Some people might have doubted the day when it began with an unenthusiastic game of amoeba tag, but no one could doubt the fun we were having less than an hour later trying to fit twelve people on a giant see-saw. Once we really let ourselves get into the activities, we started seeing real teamwork and real results. Again and again we learned the values of cooperation, organization and communication.  We broke up our long day with a great lunch from Bodos Bagels.  This break was well placed considering many of us were on the verge of heat stroke.  After lunch though, the real action began.
     Most people hear Nessy and think of the legendary Scottish monster; I’ll always think of the ridiculous high ropes contraption at Poplar Ridge.  It was just another team building exercise twenty five feet off the ground.  Being the first person to go I can say I was a little bit nervous but as you took the first step it became a blast.  The real highlight of the day though was the fifty-foot swing.  Hanging for a second, pulling on your release, then hurtling toward the dirt of the forest floor was one the coolest things I’ve experienced.
We all emerged from the woods for the most part unscathed and having a blast.  More importantly we all emerged good friends and a better team.

—Tom Daley, Richmond

HSLP 2009: Day 2, July 12
Jul 14 2009 - 11:59am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 1—Sunday, July 12, 2009
Reported by: Emma Arata, Charlottesville

     Today, in my opinion, was the very definition of intensity, or at least pretty close to it. We started out at 8:30 a.m. (practically dawn) to make our way through the already heavy humidity to the Poplar Ridge day-long ropes course. At this point in the day, I doubt that anyone was even close to prepared for the amount of trust that was to be formed, or the amount of sweat that was soon to be coating our faces. We were first greeted by Rick and Dana, our enthusiastic ropes course guides. After some fun amoeba-filled, tank-affiliated, ice-breaking games, the 32 of us split up into two separate groups and started off into the woods to begin some serious group communication-oriented games. I only heard cries and laughter from the other group, so I can’t report on exactly what sort of puzzles they solved. But as for my group, these puzzles included organizing ourselves by birthdays (while standing on a log, no speaking allowed), tossing balls in a specific order (while not dropping them), and attempting to complete a puzzle (using a diagram, wooden boards, and silence). After these surprisingly metaphorical activities, (and a delicious Bodo’s lunch), we ventured back into the woods to begin the “real” ropes course.
     My group’s first activity faced two common fears: heights and falling. The challenge involved being fastened into a harness, being pulled to the top of a telephone post (teamwork!), and having to pull a clip that was keeping us safely suspended, causing us to plummet (typically accompanied by shrieks and the occasional curse-word) towards the ground. This may sound terrifying (as it was, in my opinion), but not a single person that I spoke with regretted doing it. Our second activity involved (once again) being clipped securely into a harness, climbing up to a platform, and walking across rickety, swinging boards to the other side. There was a slight catch though: there was another harnessed person on an opposite platform, also trying to get across (again, teamwork!).
     We ended the day similar to the way we had started; we circled up, and shared our feelings. The amount of heart-felt, real, non-cliché feelings about the day that came out of peoples’ mouths really did amaze me, and I’m being completely serious here. As cliché as this may sound, it is completely true: we started the day as different people from different places with different lives. Although this is all still true, we are also (as Caitlin so eloquently put it), beginning to become like a sort of family. It really is amazing that this all happened in a day, but I’m quite sure that it will continue on for far more than two weeks.

—Emma Arata, Charlottesville

HSLP 2009: Day 1, July 11
Jul 14 2009 - 10:55am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 1— Saturday, July 11
Reported by: Allie Soroka, Virginia Beach

     Driving up to campus, butterflies fluttered throughout my stomach, driving me crazy. I looked at Bice Hall through the windows of my parents’ car with excitement and, honestly, a little anxiety. We all finally arrived. Thirty-two highschoolers were chosen throughout the state of Virginia to attend this program. My parents reassured me that I would have a valuable and fun time. I grabbed all of my belongings that I had brought, thinking it was much to excess, and strode into the dorm.
      Immediately I knew my parents were correct. I was greeted by my warm teachers who exuded vibes of compassion and acceptance.  After being handed my dorm key, I hauled my belongings up to my dorm to meet my other roommates.
      Upon my arrival into my makeshift home for two weeks I was welcomed by many friendly girls and their families. I felt at home right away when my roommate and I talked and realized that we had a lot in common. We were very diverse from each other, but we both held knowledge, learning, and the need for an open mind in high regard. Everyone at the Sorensen Institute is like this. They acknowledge that as individuals we are all different, but all very important.
      After settling into my dorm, my roommates and I headed downstairs. We said our goodbyes to our families and promised to keep in contact. The first thing on our agenda was a tour of the campus lead by our three amazing counselors. Joe, Ashley, and Andrew were enthusiastic and made us so excited from the start for all the experiences we would gain throughout our stay. We were then surprised to learn that we were all going to participate in a scavenger hunt throughout the campus. My group was lead by Joe. We had such a fun time sprinting throughout the UVa campus. We darted through the lawn, searching for Thomas Jefferson to mark something off of our list.  I immediately bonded with everyone in my group. It was obvious that we were all leaders and that we all had something to give. I could look at each person and tell their mind was filled with intellect, creative ideas, and compassionate solutions.
      Later that day, we gathered together to discuss the different labels that parties in politics are given. We tried to decipher what each party truly believed in and represented. After a long and fun discussion, we had our first speaker after he shared dinner with us. Virginia's Secretary of Natural Resources Preston Bryant discussed with us the problems Virginia faces today with such a massive growth in population. He deals with the environment and works to preserve nature despite Virginia’s urban growth.  His dedication, commitment, and use of creative ideas were evident and taught us all a very important lesson. After a long day, we were surprised again by being given an ice cream social. We continued and still are continuing to learn about each other. Our bonds are becoming closer and I am absolutely positive that the best is yet to come.

—Alexandra Soroka, Virginia Beach

HSLP 2009: Day 1, July 11
Jul 14 2009 - 10:42am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 1—Saturday, July 11, 2009
Reported by: John Woolard, Virginia Beach

    After a long day riding to Charlottesville from my hometown of Virginia Beach, the Rotunda at the University of Virginia could not have been a more welcome sight.  Soon after arriving, I was finally able to locate the Bice apartments where we will be staying for the next 2 weeks of our precious summer.  The unloading process went relatively quickly, and the warm greetings of all of the Sorensen faculty and participants made it exciting.  After everyone was moved in, we went on a tour of the campus.  I believe that we all were elated to be back at Bice before the rain arrived.  
     Once back at Bice we began our first truly political discussion.  We started out by stating our preconceived notions of what the Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, and Green parties meant to us.  Our opinions were as diverse as the varying parts of the state that we came from.  We all come from different backgrounds with different beliefs, but we all share the common desire to forge lasting friendships and learn how to make the Commonwealth of Virginia run a little bit better for all of its citizens.  Our purpose is to learn how to make the Commonwealth move forward into the new 21st century.  With all of the pressing issues that we face today, it will require the input and involvement of all the citizens of this great state.  After our discussion, we had dinner and then subsequently we listened to the Secretary of Natural Resources under Governor Kaine.  He certainly enlightened us all to the important environmental issues that we face today. 
     Possibly the most intense part of the day was a scavenger hunt across the entire UVA campus.  We had one hour to find certain landmarks and take a picture of our groups in front of it.  It got pretty competitive and before we knew it, we were running across campus to get the photos we needed to win.  We were all exhausted afterwards, but it was all fine when we had an ice cream social afterwards. 
     I believe that Sorensen will be a good experience for all of us, and I am certainly grateful for the opportunity to attend.  I look forward to working with all of the people here as we work towards the ideals that Thomas Jefferson so eloquently penned, “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” the true American dream.

—John Woolard, Virginia Beach

Stephen Bragaw Joins Youth Programs Faculty
May 11 2009 - 1:35pm

The Sorensen Institute would like to welcome Dr. Stephen Bragaw of Sweet Brian College to our faculty. Professor Bragaw will join Sorensen this summer in Charlottesville to teach in our College and High School Leaders Programs.

Steve Bragaw is Professor of American Politics and Chair of the Department of Government and International Affairs at Sweet Briar.  The Director of Sweet Briar's Law & Society program, he teaches courses on public policy, American political and legal development, social movements and the law, as well as American politics and popular culture.

Bragaw's primary research and writing focuses on the role of the Supreme Court in negotiating the boundaries of power and authority, with secondary interests in media and politics, and the politics of civic education.  He is a frequent commentator on national and state politics for television as well as public and talk radio. Prof. Bragaw earned his bachelor's degree in politics, philosophy, and economics from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, a Master of Business Administration from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and his Masters and PhD in government from the University of Virginia.  He lives in Crozet, VA, with his wife and four children, and is an avid vegetable gardener. Welcome Steve!

BREAKING: Sorensen Announces CLP and HSLP Class of 2009 Participants
Apr 23 2009 - 10:43am

The Sorensen Institute is proud to announce the 2009 College Leaders Program and High School Leaders Program participants.  Following a competitive application and interview process, these 28 College and 32 High School students were selected for the summer programs.

Bob Gibson, Executive Director, commented that "This will be an incredibly exciting summer for the Sorensen Institute.  We were delighted to have such a strong and diverse applicant pool, and glad to see applicants from schools and parts of Virginia new to both programs."

The  College Leaders Program takes place May 30 - June 27.  The High School Leaders Program takes place July 11-25.  During the programs students will spend time learning more about government and politics in the Commonwealth, meeting with public leaders from across Virginia and traveling to different parts of the state to learn more about the diversity of Virginia's regions.  In addition, both groups will identify some of the pressing issues facing Virginia today and craft their own legislative solutions to these problems.

The members of the 2009 College and High School Leaders Program are:

College Leaders Program

Michele Alexander, Springfield, University of Mary Washington
Trent Armitage, Farmville, Longwood University
Sarah Bowers, Portsmouth, University of Richmond
Jarrett Brotzman, IL  Washington and Lee University
Lindsay Chapman, Virginia Beach, Virginia Tech University
Derek Chaudhuri, Harrisonburg, Blue Ridge Community College
Patrick Crute, Chesapeake, Longwood University
Brian Diaz, Windermere, FL Liberty University
Tiffany Gibson, Midlothian, Old Dominion University
Lauren Gilbert, Alexandria, James Madison University
Chris Harts, Virginia Beach, Hampton University
Mallory Johnson, Burke, The College of William and Mary
TiffanyAnn Johnson, Hamden, CT, Virginia Commonwealth University
Jenna Klym, Mechanicsville, Virginia Tech University
Jacob Lambert, Christiansburg, Virginia Tech University
Andrew Lundsten, McLean, Christopher Newport University
Brian Marroquin, Arlington, Virginia Commonwealth University
Shamama Moosvi, South Riding, George Mason University
Joshua Owens, Midlothian, George Mason University
Lorenzo Paglinawan, Fairfax Station, University of Virginia
Abigail Quinn, Waterford, Hollins University
Waylin Ross, Norfolk, Old Dominion University
Jack Ruddy, Clifton, Hampden-Sydney College
Benjamin Soltoff, Sterling, James Madison University
Jesica Turner, Virginia Beach, Christopher Newport University
Scott Van Der Hyde, Chatham, Radford University
Karen White, Arlington, Northern Virginia Community College

High School Leaders Program

Emma Arata, Charlottesville
Benjamin Bakkum, Yorktown
Ann Baumer, Virginia Beach
Corrigan Blanchfield, Williamsburg
Zachary Brenton, Roanoke
Michael Casco-White, Alexandria
Benjamin Corbett, Suffolk
Natalie Cruise, Stafford
Thomas Daley, Richmond
Maria Decker, Falls Church
John DeVilbiss, Radford
Emma DiNapoli, Harrisonburg
Hollis Erickson, Waterford
Amy Friedman, Roanoke
Callaghan Guy, Richmond
Megi Hakobjanyan, Mechanicsville
Catherine Haley, Danville
Kevin Herbst, Goode
Whitney Hosey, Spotsylvania
Claire Hunn, Arlington
Aya Ibrahim, Alexandria
Trevor Langan, Roanoke
Jack Marshall, Richmond
Evan Maxwell, Midlothian
Caitlin Mealy, Richmond
Ashley Murphy, Roanoke
Muaz Rahman, Springfield
Alexandra Soroka, Virginia Beach
Alexandria Sutherland, Grundy
Ben Swanson, Vienna
Brea Thomas, Charlottesville
John Woolard, Virginia Beach

VIDEO: WVPT Showcases Sorensen's Youth Programs
Mar 23 2009 - 3:30pm

WVPT Public Television recently broadcast this program about the Sorensen Institute's Youth Programs. Guests included Sorensen's Marc Johnson (CLP 2003) and alumni Maribel Castaneda (HSLP 2008) and Martin Mash (CLP 2005). Enjoy! 

PODCAST: Sorensen's College and High School Leaders Programs
Feb 20 2009 - 1:11pm


Emma Yackso (HSLP 08) and Sorensen's Director of Programs Marc Johnson (CLP 03) were guests yesterday afternoon on "Charlottesville—Right Now!" to discuss the College and High School Leaders Programs. Applications are now being accepted to both programs until March 2.

PODCAST: WVTF Profiles Sorensen Youth Programs
Feb 18 2009 - 2:25pm

Public Radio station WVTF recently ran this story about the Sorensen Institute's College and High School Leaders Programs, which are currently accepting applications to the 2009 summer classes.

Charlottesville Newsplex Promotes Sorensen Youth Programs
Feb 5 2009 - 12:45pm

The Charlottesville Newsplex is today at work on a story about the Sorensen Institute's College and High School Leaders Programs. Applications are now being accepted through March 2 for the 2009 summer program season. Click here to learn more.

Sorensen's Assistant Director and Director of Programs Marc Johnson (CLP 2003) was interviewed for the story (at left in photo) along with Samantha Law (HSLP 05) and Colin Hood (HSLP 07). Both Law and Hood are now second-year students at the University of Virginia.

The story will run later today throughout Central Virginia on the CBS, ABC, and Fox local news programs. We will post a link to the story when it is available online.

Featured Alumni

  • Robert Hurt.jpg

    Robert Hurt

    Political Leaders Program

    Class of 2000

    In 2010, Robert was elected to the U.S. Congress, representing Virginia's 5th District. Robert previously served in the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate.