High School Leaders

PODCAST: High School Leaders 2007 Graduation— Spirit of Citizenship Awards
Jul 25 2007 - 7:00am

            Nilam Patel                                       Erick Rison

Marc Johnson presented the Spirit of Citizenship Award to two members of the High School Leaders Program Class of 2007: Erik Rison of Patrick Henry High and  Nilam Patel of Hidden Valley High.


PODCAST: High School Leaders 2007 Graduation— Colin Hood
Jul 24 2007 - 1:00pm

Colin Hood (left) of Colonial Heights High was selected by his fellow students to deliver the Class Address. He was introduced by Sorensen's Director of Youth Programs, Marc Johnson.


PODCAST: High School Leaders 2007 Graduation— Matt McGuire
Jul 24 2007 - 9:26am

High School Leaders Program instructor Matt McGuire delivered the Faculty Address. "Democracy is about a lot more than just governing institutions or a flow chart," Matt said. "It's about a set of attitudes and a commitment to be engaged. I really see that in these students. And that gives all of us hope that public policy is going to continue to be in a tradition that Jefferson would be very proud of."


PODCAST: High School Leaders 2007 Graduation— Sean O'Brien
Jul 24 2007 - 8:37am

The Sorensen Institute's High School Leaders Program Class of 2007 graduated this past Saturday, July 21, in the Dome Room of the University of Virginia Rotunda. Executive Director Sean O'Brien welcomed those in attendance with a few brief remarks about the purpose of the program and the vision of the Sorensen Institute.


HSLP 07 Slideshow
Jul 23 2007 - 12:45pm


High School Leaders Progam 2007: Day 14
Jul 23 2007 - 11:18am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2007

Blog Update: Day 14, Friday, July 20
Reported by: Erik Rison of Patrick Henry and
Victoria Marchetti of Trinity Episcopal

    This morning, a majority of the HSLP students awoke nervous about the
presentations that loomed.  The projects for which we had worked
countless hours would be showcased to a panel of policy experts later
that morning.  Naturally many of my classmates (myself included) were
scurrying around the dormitory this morning for last-minute changes.
    All dressed in our business finest, we walked to the Rotunda
quickly (we were a little behind this morning).  We arrived right at 9
AM and took our seats for a speech by Sen. Creigh Deeds.  The senator
spoke passionately about his political views and answered all of our
questions very well.  I even cited a useful fact for my culminating
project presentation that I had learned from his speech.
    After the morning speaker, the panelists Dr. Shields, Mr. McGuire, Ms.
DeViney, and Mr. O’Brien settled and were ready to critique our
proposed policies.  All of the groups had 5-10 minutes to present their
policy and 10 minutes to answer any questions the panelists might have. 
All of the groups did a great job and we were grateful for the time
the panelists took out their busy schedules to aid our political
leadership education.
    Our restless class, having sat for two hours, strolled over to the
classroom for lunch from Mona Lisa.  Due to the nice weather, many of
us enjoyed eating at a picnic table under the shade of tree right
outside of the engineering building. Oreos were for dessert, to the
joy of us all.
    At 1 PM we had the pleasure of having Brian Cannon come and speak to
us.  He explained his past, present, and ambition for holding public
office in the future.
    After Mr. Cannon’s talk, we headed back to Bice Hall and did a couple of surveys.  We had until 5 30 PM to ourselves.
    At 5 30 PM we had our final dinner together as a class at Baja Bean, a
Charlottesville Mexican Restaurant.  At the end of dinner the picture
scavenger hunt winners were announced and received free ice cream at
Arche's Frozen Yogurt.
    When we returned to the dorm, we had the rest of the night to do
nothing structured.  Packing and reminiscing were two popular
activities of this evening.
—Erick Rison of Patrick Henry High

   Today was the last day of the Sorensen HSLP (a.k.a. the day we
presented our Culminating Projects).  Anxiously awaiting our
presentations, we walked to the Rotunda, where Senator Creigh Deeds
spoke to us.  After his speech, it was time to present our projects,
on which everyone had worked so diligently.  From helping the
environment to the right to die, our class had impressive and well-thought-out policy ideas.  Each group made a 5-10 minute presentation,
and then our judges, Dr. Shields, Mr. McGuire, Ms. DeViney, and Dr.
O’Brien asked us questions and offered greatly-appreciated critiques. As much fun as presenting these ideas that we feel so passionately
about was, I think everyone was relieved to have completed them!
    After our presentations, we went back to the classroom where we had
lunch and listened to Brian Cannon speak.  He told us his past
experiences of working with Governor Warner to his future goals of
holding public office.  Mr. Cannon was by far one of the most
charismatic and funny speakers we have had.
    For the rest of the day, we were back at Bice packing and sharing
what little time we had left with our classmates.  The bonds that we
have made in a small amount of time are incredible.  I think everyone
is disappointed to be leaving tomorrow.  (However, there is some
excitement in the air, as we are waiting to read the final Harry Potter
book that comes out tomorrow!)
    Now as the SIPI party is winding down (SIPI is the “pledge class”
Shonda created meaning Sorensen Institute Political Institute), I want
to sum up our experience at Sorensen with song lyrics:

“Don’t stop believing, hold on to that feeling.”

These famous lyrics by Journey have become more meaningful as the end
of the Sorensen HSLP 2007 approaches.   At first, “Don’t Stop
Believing” was just a song that we made a music video out of
But now, as the last day of the Sorensen HSLP comes to an end, these
lyrics are words to live by.  
    Don’t stop believing that you have to
power to change the world, and hold on to that feeling of the long-lasting bonds we have made in just two short weeks.  “Don’t Stop
Believing” is a song never to be forgotten by the HSLP 2007, nor are
our great memories and our amazing learning experiences and
opportunities that Sorensen has given us.

High School Leaders Progam 2007: Day 13
Jul 20 2007 - 10:34am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2007

Blog Update: Day 13, Thursday, July 19
Reported by: Eesan Balakumar of  York High School

    As our experience at the Sorensen Institute nears its end, all of the members of the High School Leaders Class of 2007 are beginning to fully understand the enormity and importance of the knowledge we have gained over the past two weeks. Today’s start was marked by a highly favorable late departure from our dorms to the Miller Center for Public Affairs. The 9:15 departure allowed most of the students to get in a few, valuable extra minutes of sleep.
    At the Miller Center for Public Affairs, which is located about 10 minutes from Bice Hall, we were shown the different Presidential projects that are being worked by a staff of professors, historians, and interns. The two main projects being completed by the Miller Center are called the Presidential Oral History Project and the Presidential Recordings Program. Mark Silverstone, one of the Directors of the Presidential Recordings Program, displayed several of the recordings from President Nixon and President Johnson. All the recordings are published in a under-friendly flash player format which produces both an audio recording as well as a written transcript. Furthermore, the Sorensen Institute members were given tours of Miller Center.
    After we traveled back to our dorms, we were immediately placed into our respective Democratic or Republic party caucus. The day before we had been assigned a Senator in the Virginia Senate in preparation for today’s Mock General Assembly. The General Assembly turned out to be an intriguing and incredible experience. Initially, the Senators were placed into two committees: The Committee on Regulation and the Committee on Redistribution. The night before, students were required to submit at least one bill that would be discussed during the Mock General Assembly. After electing party leadership as well as committee chairs, which included the Committee on Regulation surprisingly electing a member from the minority Democrats to be the chair, the committees decided which bills would pass and be debated during the general session. During the general session, the Republican Party used their majority to shoot down seemingly every single Democratic action. However, in the end, the Democrats proved to be victorious with help from the Governor’s veto power.
    During the evening, the Culminating Project groups practiced their presentations in front of Marc, Kim, and Shonda. The critiques they received will help them on Friday during the actual presentation to Virginia policy makers. Even though Sorensen has only been in session for two weeks, the students have proved themselves, and seem able to take on anything at this point.
— Eesan Balakumar, York High School

High School Leaders Progam 2007: Day 12
Jul 19 2007 - 11:34am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2007

Blog Update: Day 12, Wednesday, July 18
Reported by: Katie Stolp of James Madison High

    We started off the day stumbling bleary eyed on to the bus. We were on our way to Richmond for a tour of the state’s capitol building, followed by four speakers. The bus was freezing and we all tried to catch a few minutes of much-needed sleep on our drive over. That is, we tried to sleep without Shonda snapping incriminating photos of us with slack jaws hanging and drool forming at the corner of our mouths.
    Our tour guide was quite professional, and relayed a wealth of knowledge to us about the building, its contents, and its history. After our catered lunch of sandwiches and absolutely delicious cookies, we proceeded to enjoy an extremely informative question-and-answer session with Missy Neff, Victor Branch, Jeff Britt, and Felix Sarfo- Kantanka (separately, of course).
    We boarded the bus after a long day of information saturation and headed to an outdoor strip mall for dinner. We split up into four groups, and each one went to a different restaurant. My group and I went to Firebirds, and Shonda, the counselor assigned to our group, kept us entertained through out dinner. The ride back was relatively short, made possible by shared iPods and much sleeping.
    As always, we ended the night by hanging out in each others’ rooms, talking, laughing, and in general doing nothing constructive. Which is always the way to go.
—Katie Stolp, James Madison

High School Leaders Progam 2007: Day 11
Jul 18 2007 - 10:33am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2007

Blog Update: Day 11, Tuesday, July 17
Reported by:
Michaela Balderston of T.C. Williams High

All the Sorensen students are beginning to flock back to the dorms as our curfew nears, tired after a long day of budget discussions and listening to various speakers. Since today was our final class with Dr. Shields, we have our first night free from reading. Everyone here is enjoying the freedom! From walking to Arch's for ice cream to planning retaliatory pranks, we are all having a wonderful time living the Sorensen life.
     We started out the day with a much anticipated activity, the Budget Game.  The purpose of the game was to learn about the complexities of balancing a budget. We began the game by splitting into two groups. The Senate, compiled of 9 students, moved to a conference room and drafted their own budget plan. While the remaining 22, the House, drafted their own as well. The game came with a catch though, we had to balance the budget beginning with a $1 billion deficit. Everyone really enjoyed the game because it showed that sometimes lawmakers have to make really tough decisions that may be unpopular, but will hopefully help the community in the long run. All the students voted on whether to pass the House's budget or the Senate's, and the Senate's budget passed with flying colors.
     After a quick break for lunch, we heard from three really interesting speakers. First, Sorensen graduate, the Reverend Doug Smith from the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy came to speak about issues that his organization lobbies for. Keeping with the subject of lobbying, Whitney Duff (a member of the Political Leaders Program Class of 2007) came to speak about Americans for Prosperity, and her job as a lobbyist. We finished the day hearing from Kelly Porell (also a member of the PLP Class of 2007), the Executive Director of Virginia21. Ms. Porell was really interesting. As she explained more about Virginia21, it made it very clear to all of us in the room that grassroots campaigns can have a very large impact in our government no matter your age or profession.
     Everyone here has really bonded together, and it is obvious that we are really enjoying our experience here at Sorensen—from walking Thomas Jefferson's grounds to sing-a-longs at night in someone's suite. I cannot believe we only have a few more nights here. We have been so busy, time has just flown by! We have to get in bed and rest for our trip to Richmond tomorrow, then more work on our cumulative projects!
—Michaela Balderston, T.C. Williams High

High School Leaders Progam 2007: Day 10
Jul 17 2007 - 9:18pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2007

Blog Update: Day 10, Monday, July 16
Reported by: Matthew FitzGerald of Bishop O'Connell and Ashan Sharan of Westfield

    Waking up at 8:25 and leaving at 8:30 is never a good idea, but by the end of the time limit to be woken up, everyone was downstairs. Everyone understood that today was business professional, but what some people forgot was that we were taking our class photos today. The day was incredibly hot, but being inside a windowless room is never too comfortable. But the discussions today gained speed when ideas on immigration and jobs collided, which made the class very vocal. Lunch time came around, but there was no going outside because of the thunderstorm.
    The speaker this afternoon was one of the best we have had. Coy Barefoot was an exceptional speaker who gave all of us insights on how to do interviews, and mainly, how to get our point across to the media. After we left the class room we went to the Rotunda to take the class pictures. The pictures hopefully went well, but what I know did go well with everyone was the food for dinner. Finally we get some man food up in this jaint!!
    I gotta finish my project so I hope this blog is good enough.
Matt FitzG
Matthew FitzGerald of Bishop O'Connell High

    “Anyone using the shower?” I asked my roommate. Everyone is scurrying to the showers, eating breakfast, reading last minute material, and trying to check the news. This is our usual morning, except today we had to dress more professionally. Thus, we applied make-up, straightened our hair, and hogged the mirror. Of course, this observation was strictly from the girl’s suite. We all met in the downstairs lobby and paraded to the classroom.
    With our new professor, Dr. Shields, teaching the classroom, the class was much more discussion-oriented. He briefly introduced the reading and engaged us in long and very interesting debates. For example, one of our discussions revolved around the question of whether security is a higher priority than civil liberties—or vice versa. We debated intensely until the hunger started to conquer our thoughts.         After eating a scrumptious lunch from Earl’s Diner, Coy Barefoot came to speak to us. A William and Mary graduate and a radio talk show host, he explained the importance of utilizing the media to spread a message. He gave us advice on how to look and sound professional on radio or television. Students in the class roared in laughter and even shed a few tears when listening to stories about Senator Strom Thurmond's care for his constituents.
    After his interesting speech, Dr. Shields decided to continue on a fascinating topic of insiders (prime motivators) and outsiders (people who have alternatives). Afterwards, we took a class photo and single photos in front of the rotunda.
    Returning back to Bice, we continued to work on our culminating paper rough draft, which is due tomorrow!
—Ashan Sharan of Westfield High

Featured Alumni

  • Jennifer McClellan.jpg

    Jennifer McClellan

    Political Leaders Program

    Class of 2001

    Jennifer serves in the Virginia House of Delegates where she represents the 71st District. She is also a graduate of the Candidate Training Program Class of 2005 and a member of the Sorensen Institute's State Advisory Board.