High School Leaders

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

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

Featured Alumni

  • Kelly Porell.jpg

    Kelly Cannon

    Political Leaders Program

    Class of 2007

    Kelly is the past Executive Director for Virginia21, the nation's first political action committee for college students. She is Director of the Run for the Dream road race weekend in Williamsburg, benefitting An Achievable Dream and Wounded Warrior programs.