High School Leaders

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.

Sorensen Announces 2009 Youth Program Managers
Jan 28 2009 - 12:56pm

The Sorensen Institute is proud to announce its 2009 Youth Program Managers: Paul Brockwell, Ashley Bacon-Ward, and Joe Stanley—all of whom are graduates of the Sorensen Institute.
Our Youth Program Managers play a vital role in the success of both the College and High School Leaders Programs.  The Managers live in the residence halls with the students, provide on-site mentoring and supervision, and offer valuable guidance to the class participants.

Marc Johnson, Sorensen's Director of Programs, commented "We are delighted to have these three Sorensen alumni coming back to join us this summer.  Their collective experience working with Virginia government and politics, and their personal leadership success, make them all excellent choices to work with our students."
Sorensen selects its Program Managers from among the alumni of the College and High School Leaders Programs.  We are honored that Paul, Ashley, and Joe will be joining us for the 2009 youth program season.

We are currently accepting applications for the 2009 CLP and HSLP.  For more information on applying, please click here.

Ashley Bacon-Ward of Amelia, Virginia will graduate this spring with a Masters Degree in International Affairs from Texas A&M University. In 2007 she graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree Political Science and a minor in Latin American Studies.  While at VCU Ashley served as the student representative to the Board of Visitors and a Senior Resident Assistant.  Ashley has interned for Delegate R. Steven Landes and served as a Governor’s Fellow in the Secretariat of Commerce and Trade and Technology.  Ashley is a graduate of the College Leaders Program Class of 2005.
Paul Brockwell of Richmond, Virginia is currently the Conflict of Interest Director in the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office and was previously a Governor's Fellow and then Special Assistant in the Secretariat of Agriculture and Forestry.  He is a 2007 graduate of William and Mary where he majored in Religious Studies and minored in Middle Eastern Studies.  While at William and Mary Paul served as a Head Resident, on the Undergraduate Honor Council, with Global Village Project, and in Student Assembly.  He is a graduate of the College Leaders Program Class of 2004.

Joe Stanley of Kents Store, Virginia will graduate this spring from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in Political Science.  Joe currently works as a Policy Fellow for the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.  He has also served as the interim Legislative Assistant Delegate Franklin Hall.  At VCU Joe has served as the Director of External Affairs for the Student Government and as a Charter Member of Students Helping Honduras, as well as volunteering as a tutor.  Joe is a graduate of the High School Leaders Program Class of 2005.


Dr. Shields to Seek GA Seat
Jan 9 2009 - 11:00am


Dr. Tom Shields, a veteran member of the faculty for Sorensen's youth programs, has recently announced his intention to seek election to the Virginia House of Delegates.

Tom is on the faculty at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies and is director of the Center for Leadership in Education at the University of Richmond. He intends to run in the 73rd District, which centers around Henrico just northwest of Richmond, and is now represented by Delegate John O'Bannon.

Tom released this statement, "My teaching at Sorensen and my association with the organization has had an incredible impact on me and why I'm running for the House of Delegates. Like many of the participants in the programs in which I have taught, I decided it was time that I stopped talking about being civically engaged and 'walked the walk.'  Like the Sorensen mission, I've never believed in labels, such as liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. I'm running because it is time for the next generation of leadership to put into practice how we might better our Commonwealth and how we should put our family's first."

Click here to visit Tom's website.

Click here to visit the website of incumbent Delegate John O'Bannon.


Va. State Board of Education Commends Sorensen's HSLP
Nov 20 2008 - 11:14pm

The Virginia State Board of Education today endorsed the Sorensen Institute's High School Leaders Program. Board President Mark E. Emblidge issued the following commendation:

The Virginia Board of Education commends The Sorensen Institute High School Leaders Program.

WHEREAS, the Sorensen Institute High School Leaders Program, under the inspired and creative leadership of Mr. Bob Gibson, Executive Director, and Mr. Marc Johnson, Assistant Executive Director and Director of Programs, prepares young people to become effective future leaders and to become ethical and responsible citizens of the Commonwealth; and

WHEREAS, the High School Leaders Program is a testament to the lasting and positive effects of energetic and sustained hard work to bring together all areas of the community dedicated to promoting civic engagement and public service and to improving communities for all citizens;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the members of the Board of Education salute the Sorensen Institute for its High School Leaders Program and extend sincere appreciation for the valued and committed leadership shown on behalf of the young citizens of Virginia.

Adopted in Richmond, Virginia, This Twentieth Day of November in the Year 2008.

HSLP 08 Graduation!
Jul 26 2008 - 6:48pm















Congratulations to the Sorensen Institute's High School Leaders Program Class of 2008. The class celebrated their graduation this morning at a ceremony in the historic dome room at the University of Virginia Rotunda. The board members, alumni, and staff are very proud to welcome you to the Sorensen family!

Look for photos and video of the graduation here in the Newsroom in the next few days.

HSLP 08 Day 15, Saturday July 26
Jul 26 2008 - 5:09pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2008
Day 15, Saturday, July 26
Reported by: Richard Murphy and Amber Wiley-Vawter

     This morning I sadly began to pack and pawn off all the food my roommates never ate. After booking it through the shower and dressing in a cross between business professional and business casual, because apparently everyone likes wearing suits except me, I joined my classmates and walked to class.
     There was a general air of anticipation as we all thought of what was ahead. These thoughts continued all the way through the graduation ceremony: Some girls cried, some middle names were mis-pronounced, but overall the graduation was amazing. Madison got up and gave her grown-up woman speech; Emily explained how we were mischievous little monkeys; and Jamie talked about what we all take away from this experience. Next was the honored speaker and then came the big moment when we all received our diplomas. Every one of us felt a little surge of pride as we got our validation for the politics boot camp.
     Last of all was the slideshow and the closing remarks by MJ. Everyone was sad as we filed out of the room to the reception, some people introduced their families, some people cried, but mostly everyone was just happy that we all made it through. After a stirring rendition of “Goodbye Love” with Michelle, the “fives”and I headed back to Bice Hall to finish packing and say our goodbyes.
     First came the packing. Throw all dirty clothes into suitcase: check. Throw all clean clothes into hamper: check. Pray that you don’t forget anything: check. The first to go from room 204 was McCullough, a suitemate that I know I’ll be missing later tonight when its midnight and I have no one to gossip about my roommates with. Then went Daniel, my ever so patient roommate, who accepted my tendency to sleep walk and even had the decency not to beat me. I left before Colin but it was all the more tragic. We all said so many goodbyes today to all of the friends we made at Sorensen.
     It’s so hard to believe that everyone became so close after just two weeks; that a family grew out of 32 super cool high school kids. Unfortunately, all of the super cool high school kids had to have their rooms cleaned before they left, and for those of us who hadn’t washed dishes since the 14th, that meant cleaning out the substances from the dishes in the sink. After that fun little escapade, we returned our keys, said final goodbyes to all of the people we loved, promised to meet up before school started, and left the premises. I can’t speak for every member of the HSLP, but I know that this experience changed me and that I’ll always take the lessons I learned from my time at Sorensen with me in life. Thanks so much everyone, it was a great two weeks!
— Richard Murphy of Chesapeake, Norfolk Academy Class of 2009

     Today is graduation.  Tears are being shed yet we all carry a smile.  The class of 2008 survived through the stress, work and hardship; from it we were all reborn a new person, a better person.  Dressed in our finest we smiled and laughed as the last goodbyes were said.  We regret nothing.  We are the Class of the 2008 Sorensen Institute.
     The room was getting quiet as parents, friends and sightseers shifted into their seats waiting for the speaker to begin.  We were surrounded by white arches beautifully set in a room designed by Thomas Jefferson called the Rotunda.  Bob Gibson began the graduation by fondly listing the class’s obsession with the dart game. A game that involves shooting people with imaginary darts, thus forcing them to the ground for forty-five seconds. Incidentally the only way to protect yourself was cover you neck, thus a large majority of our pictures have students covering their necks in fear.  
     Elected by our class as speaker for graduation, Martina Hairston gave a wonderful speech; many of us were brought to tears.  Then once again to have our hearts lightened as she called out ‘Hey Sorensen’ with the class responding with ‘Hey What?’  Marc Johnson gave the Spirit of Citizenship Award to Caroline Wulf and Mitch Caudill.  The Honorable Paul Harris, Vice Chairman of the Sorensen Institute spoke of the young leaders in the world and the passion and change they would bring.  Presenting the diplomas were Ms. Madison Bush, Jamie Lockhart, and Emily Reijmers; each spoke of how they would dearly miss us and rejoiced in the fact that their torment was over.  All three suffered some form of abuse such as refusing to follow curfew rules, pranks that involved loss of beds, spoon filled purses and much more. Although despite all the above they were there for us in any way possible and expressed how much they cared and would miss us. Diplomas in hand, we moved down to the reception where we nibbled on refreshments and said our last goodbyes, camera flashes and all. The two-week Sorensen Leadership Program was over; however the memory and impact it had on our lives will stay strong in all of our hearts, for we are the Class of 2008.
— Amber Wiley-Vawter of Floyd, Floyd County High School Class of 2009

HSLP 08 Day 14, Friday July 25
Jul 26 2008 - 8:46am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2008
Day 14, Friday, July 25
Reported by: Helen Jones and Trent Smith

     I am very sad to report that today was our last day at the Sorensen HSLP.  After a long night of planning and practicing, we presented our culminating projects to a panel of judges in the Rotunda.  It was my first time in this famous venue which made our presentations even more exciting.  The class was divided into six groups, each of which chose a Virginia public policy issue that we wanted to implement or change.  Two from each group explained their situation and their proposal to fix it.  The other three or four members of the group were then questioned by the panel.  I think I speak for everyone when I say I was really nervous but we all made it with flying colors.
     We returned to our classroom for the last time after our presentations.  After lunch we heard from Coy Barefoot, Director of Communications and Alumni Relations for Sorensen, and Karen Kolber a political strategist.  Mr. Barefoot explained that we are all leaders and that we should not doubt our abilities.  Ms. Kolber then conducted a workshop on fundraising which will be useful to all of us in our future endeavors, be it for service or a government election.
     Afterwards the entire class walked over to the Corner for our final dinner together at Baja Bean, where we ate a delicious meal and our new class chair, Caroline Wulf, awarded superlatives.  I know everyone is going to miss their new friends but we can all look forward to a reunion in the near future.  
— Helen Jones of Danville, Chatham Hall Class of 2009        

     As Sorenson students, we've finally defied one law that isn't in some Constitution. 
     The Law of Sleep: A human being of any age, race or gender requires 8 hours or more of sleep, in order to fully function.
     Try less than 5. Every night.
     Such is the life of a prospective politician. Nevertheless, weary eyes were replaced by alert ones this morning, as each Culminating Project group made their presentations. Eager to hear our peers' ideas on our respective issues and apprehensive to present our own, we filed into the Rotunda, the site of the presentations. We listened to fact-filled, persuasive solutions to problems such as the infant mortality rate, the length and number of terms for the Governor, the Hamton Roads transportation problem, the Chesapeake Bay's runoff issue, the death penalty, and a prospective 4-day school week.
     The presentations concluded and we were free! Or so we thought.
     We hustled back across campus to Thornton for lunch and a few more speakers. After our first- two hour lunch break, we settled in for our next speaker. Suddenly, Coy Barefoot emerged through the doorway. After an extremely informative presentation about Thomas Jefferson and Jefferson's vision of government and a citizen's role in deciding it, Barefoot presented us with "The Patriot's Challenge:" Citizens of the United States must pick the most qualified candidate, not the most charismatic or trustworthy, for public office.
     Next up was fundraising extraordinaire Karen Kolber. She explained to us what a candidate must do to get his funds. After a two-hour rundown, it was time to go to our last dinner together.
Everyone scrambled up the steps of Baja Bean to get a good table. Then, when everyone realized it was buffet style, scrambling ensued to get to the front of the line. As we chowed down on our Mexican food, we were surprised by a list of superlatives that our new chair, Caroline Wulf, put together. After some giggles and acknowledgements, it was time to head back to Bice for the night, for once without homework.
     Coming into this two-week experience, I had no idea of what to expect. Frankly, I had a very limited knowledge of Virginia politics, or politics in general for that matter. I was worried I’d pale in comparison to other political masterminds that would surely be here. But what I found is that even though we’re all different, we’re all alike. Everyone wants everyone to learn, and learn I did. How could I not with such a bright and interesting group of people? Sure we do have a few political brainiacs (Colin and Mitch, you guys are incredible), yet no one looked down on anyone else just because they weren’t as informed. Every single last one of you 31 knuckleheads (Madison, Emily, Jamie, Marc, and Mr. Gibson too) are people I want to stay in touch with for the rest of my life. I’m so glad I came here. Graduation is tomorrow and if someone trips, two weeks of perfection will finally be completed.
     And oh yeah…..sleep’s overrated.
— Trent Smith of Williamsburg, Lafayette High School, Class of 2009

HSLP 08 Day 13, Thursday July 24
Jul 25 2008 - 12:15pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2008
Day 13, Thursday, July 24
Reported by: Caitlin Saloka and Christina Solebello

     Today we woke up early, again, for our LAST DAY OF CLASS!!   I have to admit, we were all excited, yet in the back of everyone’s mind was the knowledge that we were one day closer to graduation—and not getting to see our newly made friends daily. While that was sad, we all vowed to keep in touch and not wait for our official alumni reunion to see each other.  We had one speaker before lunch, a professor at UVA, who presented a slideshow to us about globalization. I thought the presentation was extraordinarily eye-opening and shocking because of the length of the problem, and how it is still ongoing.  
     Around 10:30, we all left to go to the Miller Center, where we met with former Governor Balilies, which was interesting because we learned about the presidents' secret recordings and listened to a few.  At noon, we were off to lunch, and spent our day, until around 3pm in class with another two speakers.  Both were extremely good, and energetic, and as always, more than willing to answer all of our eager questions.  This is one of the countless reasons as to why Sorensen is so wonderful; every speaker honestly wants to be there and treats us like we matter—like we truly are the future.  If every adult approached kids with that attitude, I believe that people would feel more involved and important and like they could make a difference.  
     Then, we got out of class early, because it usually ends at 5, and so part of my group, along with myself, went to Downtown Charlottesville to buy posters and markers from CVS for our Culminating Project.  We came home, or I suppose, back to Bice House, and began our project.  We worked until around 10 at night, and then did a practice presentation in front of our three program managers and Marc Johnson.  They critiqued us, and that allowed us to be able to go back and review and fix our mistakes.  The presentation is tomorrow morning, in the Rotunda, which should be exciting!   That will be our last full day—sad and exciting at the same time!  I can’t wait!
— Caitlin Saloka of Forest, Jefferson Forest High School Class of 2009

     Today was just a great day for Sorensen. Our final days are coming to a close and we ambled to class, almost late. Emily, who had been out due to illness, saw us as she passed by and yelled that she was back! Our first speaker was Hal Burbach who presented a beautiful presentation, showing us the world at night. The presentation also had two videos. One about a girl who stood up before the UN in 1992 protesting the way the climate. The second was called 2 Million Minutes; it compared six students, two from USA, two from India, and two from China. The video documented their work ethics and the drastic change between their studying habits.
     Afterwards we took the bus to the Miller center where we had a few guest speakers including former Virginia Governor Baliles. They showed us around their website and gave us the basic ideas of how their operation works. Then we had lunch with Bob Gibson. He described his life in writing journalism for politics and then opened the room for questions. Afterwards we had representatives from Virginia21 inspire us to get active in college!
     It was a great day for Sorensen. We got out early and started working on our projects, and had mock presentations.
— Christina Solebello of Louisa, Louisa County High School Class of 2009

HSLP 08 Day 12, Wednesday July 23
Jul 24 2008 - 10:37am









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

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.