High School Leaders

HSLP 2009: Day 9, July 19
Jul 20 2009 - 12:13pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 9— Sunday, July 19
Reported by: Natalie Cruise, North Stafford High School, Stafford

     Today was a very relaxing Sunday to say the least. While we had lots of time to catch up from our hectic week and enjoy the lovely weather, we also learned some insightful information during our few hours in the classroom.
     Everyone woke up way later than usual, and we all lazily crawled out of bed to eat some delicious bagels and salads from Bodo's Bagels. After that, half of our group split up and headed to Thornton Hall to participate in the "National Issues Forum." None of us had any clue what it would be about. We had our speculations, but no one really knew what we would be doing. Once we arrived, we were welcomed by a nice judge from Louisiana who was very cordial, and we sat down in a circle to start our discussion.
     Last night we read a booklet titled Under Pressure: How Can We Keep the Courts Fair and Impartial? which was written by the American Bar Association Coalition for Justice. It informed us about the public's different opinions about the judicial system, and described three approaches in which to better the system and the public's opinion of it. During the forum, we went into more detail about the three approaches and learned how they apply to real-life courts. The first approach is to understand the role of the judiciary, which allows citizens to better understand their government and the courts system. The second approach is to make the judicial system work better by strengthening its foundation and making it more efficient. The third approach is to make the judiciary less political by devising a new way to choose our judges and make the system less partisan. All of these approaches can be effective in improving the judicial system and allowing citizens to put more trust in the courts.
     Today's events gave us the perfect combination of learning and relaxing, and we all enjoyed the time spent with each other. Tonight's events included more reading, more project work, and more good times with friends. I'm so excited to spend two whole weeks soaking up tons of information and making new friends while enjoying the beautiful UVA campus. I know this next week will be filled with lots of fun things to learn and do, and I can't wait to see what's next!

—Natalie Cruise, Stafford

HSLP 2009: Day 9, July 19
Jul 20 2009 - 12:09pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 9— Sunday, July 19
Reported by: Jack Marshall, Richmond

     Today at Sorensen we had two hours of discussion forum on the judiciary system with a judge from Louisiana.  We discussed the three approaches to the judiciary sector and how we felt about them.  Everyone participated in a lively discussion that was not dominated by one or two people as usual.  Everyone’s ideas were valid, and we all brought up some good points.  After Andrew finished writing on the blackboard for about two straight hours (while no one took notes) and we all ran out of things to say, we headed back for Bice hall at about 4:45.
     After a good dinner we sat down in our educational group and talked for about an hour and a half.  We got several good pages of information typed up and made good progress.  However, since the rough draft of the paper is due on Tuesday, we have another four and a half pages to type up at the least— not to mention our personal letters to our delegates we have to write as well.  We should be in for a fun Monday of work.  The highlight of the day was going down to the UVA Corner and getting stocked up on soda and food for the dorm.  The annoying part was having to carry it all back.
     For the rest of the evening, we plan to go get ice cream and hangout on the Lawn.  Waking up early tomorrow will be tough after sleeping in for two consecutive days, and it will take a while to get back into the routine.  This morning everyone slept in and did a little work on projects and basically just took the morning off to relax.  It was much easier since we got to dress casually too.  We got to have a nice Sunday and it was a much needed break for rest and relaxation.
     Now that our first week at "camp" is done, we have all made some great friends and really seen how rewarding the entire experience can be if you pay attention and do the reading, which seems to literally never end.  Hopefully we can have a great last week and bring the camp to a strong close.  I am looking forward to spending more time with all our great campers and counselors over the course of the next six days.

—Jack Marshall, Richmond

HSLP 2009: Day 8, July 18
Jul 20 2009 - 12:05pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 8— Saturday, July 18
Reported by: Amy Friedman, Roanoke

     The sound of my Ipod woke me up as usual this morning but I felt very different. I was...ready to get out of bed. Not only did I get more than three hours of sleep last night – I got nine. And I had two whole hours before I had to be in class.
     First, we cleaned. Obviously since everyone here at Sorensen is a "leader of tomorrow," we are all exceptionally organized and responsible. Yeah – not so much. I have yet to do my laundry (of which there is a lot more than there should be since we have only been here for seven days). The rest of our room is a mess, so we decided to only tackle the dishes. And by we I mean the wonderful Hollis, my one roommate who offered to do them. Hollis hates milk. Someone hadn’t poured the milk out of their cereal bowl, like three days ago. Hollis did not approve, and rightly so.
     Before we knew it, it was time to leave again for class. Yes, even though it is Saturday and perhaps the nicest day I have seen all summer, potentially in my life, we have class.
     I arrived late to class and had to sit in the back, which I hate, and then our new teacher walked in and he was like all of those profound teachers you see in college movies. The best example of this that I can offer is as follows: He had us all try to define ‘justice’ and how we know what justice is. There was clearly no right answer but we all tried because we are nerds like that. As we answered he would tell us which ancient philosopher’s ideas we were channeling. When my fellow classmate Whitney defined justice as punishment and revenge he replied that she was "busting a cap in Plato" yeah. Toto, we aren’t in Roanoke anymore. (And if you were wondering, I’m apparently a lot like the Scottish Enlightenment).
     So I sat in the back thinking about the state of democracy and eating Sweetarts with my new fabulous Sorensen friend Emma and had to take a second for an internal laugh at how crazy and wonderful it is just to be here.
     Emma lives here in Charlottesville, so after class we met up with her friends and ran about town, ate some Thai food and returned to Bice. So that’s it. That’s the way it is at Sorensen (take this moment to mourn the recent loss of Walter Cronkite if you haven’t already). This is the only place where the day can start with rotten milk, spend three hours dissecting justice, and end – well, probably it will end sometime very early tomorrow morning.

—Amy Friedman, Roanoke

HSLP 2009: Day 8, July 18
Jul 20 2009 - 12:00pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2009
Day 8— Saturday, July 18
Reported by: Muaz Rahman of West Springfield High School, Sprinfield

     The first Saturday of the Sorensen Program, July 18, was a great day that was very much needed and looked forward to in the minds of the students.  After the long and zealous week, the sleep-deprived students had the morning off and classes did not begin until 1 pm. Comparing this to waking up at 7:30 in the morning during the week, Saturday was a much-required treat.
     We actually went through a bit of a transition this day due to the change of both classroom, teacher, as well as the topic of discussion. Marc Johnson, our last teacher, discussed with the class the topic: The Informed Citizen. He was a great teacher and taught us, in my opinion, many new pieces of information that are very critical in being successful in the political field.  Our new teacher, Professor Stephen Bragaw, is also as knowledgeable and discussed with us the topic: The Thoughtful Citizen.
     This topic was different from the last topic in the sense that we discussed ‘thought-proving ideals’ and actual chemistry that lies behind politics and not as much information as conferred with Marc Johnson. Class lasted for three hours. We talked extensively about justice, theories behind government, public goods and service, and other conceptual topics.
     We then proceeded to read off of our readings for that specific day. Many new ideals and concepts were presented very clearly to us from the readings that I believe are very important to the American people—especially people who are involved in politics and have in mind to strengthen America as a whole. We looked at the American government from an antagonistic point of view and looked at the faults of democracy and how it can lead us to an undesired end. This is very important since as a political activist we have to try to find the flaws in our government and communities and attempt to try and fix these problems for the betterment of society at large. The topic was overall very enjoyable and presented to us a different outlook in politics and showed us its roots and basic underlying factors.
     The day was then capped off with dinner and some fun outdoor activities which almost all of us took part in. We are all looking forward to the days that lie ahead and hope to learn even more about politics and how we can be a part in making America a better place.

—Muaz Rahman, Springfield

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