High School Leaders

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.
Peace
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

High School Leaders Progam 2007: Day 9
Jul 16 2007 - 12:58pm


High School Leaders Program Class of 2007

Blog Update: Day 9, Sunday, July 15
Reported by:
Courtenay Dobbins of George Washington and Terun Desai of Marshall

    Finally! A day of rest arrived!! Many of us slept in until around 11, while others got up earlier to do laundry, study, or hang out. The bus picked all 34 of us up at noon at and we headed south to Scottsville. After the half-hour drive, everyone was ready to go tubing on the James River. From James River Reeling and Rafting we took another bus down to the actual river, where we chose our tubes and began the float.
    After four long hours of drifting (while discussing things other than politics for once) everyone hopped out of the water. We headed back to Charlottesville where dinner was waiting for us. The rest of the night was free to continue our laundry, walk to The Corner, or work with our groups on the Culminating Project.
Today was a different day for us, but added to the diverse experiences I know we are all gaining from the program.
—Courtenay Dobbins of George Washington High

______________________________________________________________

    Today was the day members of HSLP got to kick back and relax on a tubing trip to Scottsville. Besides having no classes, we were able to sleep in until 11am and actually had energy for the day.  The tubing lasted about 3 hours on the James River and was a chance for us to relax and bond.  Besides for a few
injuries and lost wallets, it was overall a very lazy day at Sorensen.  Once we returned from the trip, we were able to catch up on readings for Monday and meet with our project groups.
—Tarun Desai of Marshal High

High School Leaders Progam 2007: Day 8
Jul 15 2007 - 9:10am


High School Leaders Program Class of 2007

Blog Update: Day 8, Saturday, July 14
Reported by: Caroline Geroe of Cox High School and Kyle Gardiner of Monticello High

    Today, we, the lucky and talented students of Sorensen High School Leaders Program, met our new teacher, Dr. Tom Shields.  After panicking the night before about the readings for today’s class, we relaxed when we discovered that the class was based a lot on discussion.  We had two classes today. After brief introductions, we dived right into the analysis of Putnam’s Bowling Alone.  This Lens of our program is focused on understanding what it means to be a "good citizen."  We discussed the effects that technology has on social capital today, as well as what “public policy” really is.  After that we tried to define “Market” and “Polis” using our own ideas.  We watched a YouTube.com video called “Shift Happens” about globalization in the Information Age. It really opened our eyes.  The discussion turned to whether any public policy can be "market" or is it all "polis" (using the definition for market as “fact-based” and polis as “opinion-based”). 
    After class we returned to Bice, and several students and I went to the UVa bookstore and bought UVa gear.  When we came back we had time to sing a couple songs with the rest of the group in 208 and then we went to the HSLP Reunion barbecue.  The barbecue was fun and gave us the opportunity to ask valuable questions to those who had already completed the program.  After the barbecue everyone went out on the town. We all wait with baited breath for our upcoming tubing adventure tomorrow, especially after being warned to wear plenty of sunscreen by alumni of the program.
—Caroline Geroe of Cox High
______________________________________________________________

    After getting around five hours of sleep per night for the past week, most of us were looking forward to a good rest Friday night and a relaxing Saturday; but as it turned out, such wasn't the case. Saturday morning ushered in the second portion of our curriculum, the Thoughtful Citizen. We met our new instructor for this portion of the program, Dr. Tom Shields, and he introduced us to a whole lot of reading. Staying up until ungodly hours Friday night/Saturday morning to finish the reading, the extra hour of sleep gained from class starting an hour late was the only thing that kept most of us alive.
    In class we debated the reading we had, which focused largely on political philosophies as they related to civic duty, and also discussed the effect of technology on civic involvement. Because class was short today, we didn’t manage to talk about a lot of the reading we did.
    After 4pm we more or less had the rest of the afternoon/night off. The Sorensen Institute sponsored a High School Leaders Program reunion at 5:30. After that, we spent about two hours listening to music and producing a music video for “Don’t Stop Believing” that more or less killed. After that, a lot of us went to the Charlottesville Downtown Mall and walked around, grabbed a bite to eat, or listened to music at the Pavilion. Tomorrow we don’t have to wake up until 11am, so I’m looking forward to my first good night’s sleep!
—Kyle Gardiner of Monticello High

High School Leaders Progam 2007: Day 7
Jul 14 2007 - 11:17am


High School Leaders Program Class of 2007

Blog Update: Day 7, Friday, July 13
Reported by: Anthony Spencer of Colonial Heights

    Today I decided to sleep a little more than I have been during my time at the HSLP.  It was much needed because I have been completely drained the last couple of days.  Today was Mr. McGuire's last day with us.  He did say that he will be judging our final presentations next week, so that should be fun. 
    Our first speaker today was Mary Loose Deviney.  She is a parliamentarian.  She talked to us about presenting our policies to the General Assembly.  We gave her some issues, and she challenged us to consider which groups might opposed those issues and how we could respond.
    Our second speaker was Waldo Jaquith.  His information about how the Internet could effect the outcome of an election was very informative.  He was also a very funny guy.  Later in the evening he and his wife went to see the latest Harry Potter movie.  The movie could've been better.  I didn't like how it jumped around from scene to scene.  But I would see it again.  I cried during the movie and everyone seemed to get a kick out of that.
— Anthony Spencer of Colonial Heights High

High School Leaders Progam 2007: Day 6
Jul 13 2007 - 10:28am


High School Leaders Program Class of 2007

Blog Update: Day 6, Thursday, July 12
Reported by: Mark Harris of First Colonial and Alexandra Gecker of the Walker Governor's School

    Today we continued our examination of Virginia politics under the lens of "The Informed Citizen." The morning yielded fruitful discussion regarding urbanization and the effects of the Democratic Party in Virginia. Shifting demographics has been the focus of many a discussion this past week. The implications for the future of Virginia politics are staggering, and came as a great surprise to me. Following this, we took a look at Virginia's Constitution. We held our own mock constitutional convention, examining each individual article and debating possible amendments and deletions. In doing so, we all truly recognized that even a document both old and steeped in history and tradition can be considered a living document. Even today, debate rages regarding certain provisions that have been in place for many, many years.
    Following lunch, we listened to a workshop on creating effective resumes. Afterward came Jarrett Ray of the Virginia Young Republicans. He offered his knowledge and keen insight regarding a party that once dominated Virginia politics. There is some speculation that Virginia will become a Democratic state, but with visionaries like Mr. Ray leading the youth of the party, I believe the Republicans will be a formidable presence for years to come. He provided interesting counterpoints to arguments made by yesterday's speaker from the Virginia Young Democrats, and it was very interesting to see the clash of ideas between two very passionate and committed men.
    Following some heated debate from some of Sorensen's own party stalwarts, we heard from Connie Jorgensen. Mrs. Jorgensen is no stranger to policy formulation. We all remember the diagrams of "How a Bill Becomes a Law" from our civics classes. Mrs. Jorgensen discussed how policy is really made, identifying key players and their methods of policy implementation. She gave directions on how to begin a grassroots campaign, and how to affect policy on local and state levels.
    This advice was especially pertinent to us, as tonight we finish our outlines of our policy proposals for our culminating projects. We've spent several late nights discussing, researching, and working out solutions for our policy proposals. There is still so much yet to be done. Upon realizing this, my eye also caught the new stack of readings that we have been assigned. There are some long nights ahead...
—Mark Harris of First Colonial High
______________________________________________________________________

    It’s been another good day in a series of good days.  While I woke up certain that little could follow up yesterday, what with our inspiring hour with Delegate Brian Moran, today was surprisingly good.  I suppose I should have learned by now that no matter how intriguing a day’s activities are here at Sorensen, the next day’s are bound to be just as worthwhile.  I overslept this morning, and my roommate (whose early-morning jogs show a motivation I cannot imagine), in typical Sorensen style, kindly offered to wake me up from now on.  Without fail, everyone here is just so astonishingly sweet and sincere about their enthusiasm for being here.  These are the kinds of people with whom I want to spend my summer.
    We spent the morning with the ever-knowledgeable Mr. McGuire, and though our discussions consistently go over the scheduled time, somehow no one seems to mind.  It’s less because we’re bad at time-management and more because everyone gets engrossed in each new topic.  Lunch was great even though I was the unsuspecting victim of a Cheerwine explosion, and afterwards, for the first time in ages, I heard a Republican admit to being more fiscally than socially conservative.
    That’s the best thing about Sorensen, the way people can surprise you.  In a few short days I’ve forged friendships with people who at first seemed insurmountably different from me, I’ve shared some of my life experiences only to realize that others have experienced much of the same, and I’ve see that polisci geeks (even Hampton Roads kids in their plaid shorts) can dance.
    I’m so grateful to be here, for though the nights are filled with more homework than many of us had at school, by working and living together we’re learning so much more than just government.
—Alexandra Gecker of Maggie L. Walker Governor's School

High School Leaders Progam 2007: Day 5
Jul 12 2007 - 1:33pm


High School Leaders Program Class of 2007

Blog Update: Day 5, Wednesday, July 11
Reported by: Beth Foster of Western Albemarle,
Neal Modi of Princess Anne, and Colin Hood of Colonial Heights

    Today, we all pulled ourselves out of bed at the ungodly hour of six in the morning, to be down at the charter bus to NOVA at 6:45. After a fairly pleasant bus ride spent munching on Bodo’s bagels, catching up on sleep, and watching Disney movies, we arrived at a fish restaurant in Old Towne Alexandria where we planned to spend the remainder of our day. We were first greeted by John Alex Golden, President of the Virginia Young Democrats. Golden spent several minutes talking about the key values of the Democratic party, and also spent time discussing the Virginia Young Democrats and about how we could get involved.
    After that, we spent an entertaining and informative hour with Alfonso Lopez, Director of the Virginia Liaison Office for Governor Tim Kaine. Lopez discussed everything from the quirks of Senator Warner to the big issues facing the Governor’s office and Virginia. After an hour, Lopez had many of us wishing we had his job!
    Following a brief break for lunch and some time spent wandering around Alexandria, we met with Senator Jay O’Brien. We spent time with O’Brien discussing some of the major bills he has passed during his time in office, including the cell phone and graduated license bill.
    Following O’Brien was our final speaker for the day, Delegate Brian Moran. Moran spent time with us primarily  answering questions during which he provided insight into the challenges office holders often face when they vote on bills. After Delegate Moran, we began our return to Charlottesville, stopping at a Cracker Barrel to eat on the way home. It was an incredibly informative (and fun!) day, and gave many of us a chance to meet with some of the big players in Virginia politics in an informal and comfortable atmosphere.
—Beth Foster of Western Albemarle High
_______________________________________________________________________

    Today I woke up feeling like a sloth! Slow and lackadaisical,  I awoke at an early 5:30, whether ready or not, to embark on our journey to Northern Virginia. The official day began at around 10:00 a.m. when John Alex Golden, the president of the Virginia Young Democrats, came to discuss with us the values and stances that the Democratic Party upholds and the process in which the Young Democrats operate. We all followed up with, as with all other speakers, a question and answer “dialogue” where each student engaged with the speaker.
    Followed by Golden was Alfonso Lopez, official liaison between Congress and the General Assembly, Alfonso discussed the duties of his position and its affect in Virginia. Indeed, the most compelling, with his strong insight on both political levels and ability to speak to us and not at us, Lopez enamored us all. Not long after that, we had lunch at The Fish Market, in Old Towne Alexandria, a delightful treat to say the least, and refreshing our minds, preparing to listen to two more speakers.
    The next two men, although politically different in their ideologies and parties, represented the strength of the two-party system in Virginia. Jay O’Brien, a Republican State Senator representing parts of Northern Virginia was first in the afternoon. This eloquent and passionate speaker discussed with us many of his policy issues, specifically transportation, and his and the General Assembly’s position on it. This informative session, of course, filled our minds with questions that led to much-heated debates between both the students and the Senator and students themselves.
    Followed by O’Brien was Brian Moran, a Democratic delegate representing Alexandria and parts of Fairfax county. Like O'Brien, Delegate Moran discussed issues facing Virginia and focused intently on the student’s questions.  Both men made clear the strength of our Commonwealth and the great leadership we enjoy.
     Afterwards, on our way back to Charlottesville, we stopped at a Cracker Barrel of I-95 and ate dinner. Followed by a long, yet discussion-packed trip, we reminisced on the day’s events and are looking forward to the speakers yet to come.
—Neal Modi of Princess Anne High
________________________________________________________________________

    Another day has passed in the High School Leadership Program.  The day embarked as our class loaded the bus at 7:00 AM sharp. The bus left Bice Apartments early as we traveled to Northern Virginia. A new place for some and a home for others, this location provided the class with its first large batch of speakers. After a long bus ride full of exhausted students, grotesque smells from the bus’s bathroom, and high expectations for the day’s speakers, the group arrived at the Fish Market in Old Town Alexandria.
    John Alex Golden, President of the Virginia Young Democrats, was our first speaker. He shared his responsibilities as President and shared his amazement of his program. He truly enjoys the motivation and inspiration that young people, Democrat or Republican, bring to democracy. The inspiration he shared was evident in my peer’s eyes as they were provided an outlet to share this motivation within their community.
    After hearing about the possibilities each student has to share motivation within his or her own community, Alfonso Lopez, the Virginia Liaison, shared his testimony of a successful Sorensen graduate who continued in a political path after college. Mr. Lopez’s success was not only measured in his prestige as a member of the Governor’s office, but as a man who molded his enjoyment of politics into a career which provides pleasure to his everyday responsibilities.  Mr. Lopez’s passion was contagious as my fellow students and I observed our similar dreams come true in a fellow Sorensen alumni’s life.
    Next, we were presented with the presence of Senator Jay O’Brien and Delegate Brian Moran.  Both men were gracious enough to share their thoughts, opinions, and advice.  After the speakers finished with their thoughts, we were given a chance to discuss points made by both legislators. These debates varied from transportation, education, and cell phones to defining marriage and winning an election.
    On the way home from Northern Virginia, we all begin to take on our next assignment: bearing the unbelievable stench from the bus’s bathroom. After proving our determination and persistence of a long and nasty bus ride, we began our real assignment: our Culminating Project.  These projects are now in full gear along with our minds as we ponder the biggest challenge of passing legislation and finding a funding source to pay for it.  As the projects continue, so do our relationships.  These relationships are necessary in order to embrace the challenges of the program and also embrace the real message of the Sorensen Institute.
—Colin Hood of Colonial Heights High

Featured Alumni

  • Jesse Ferguson.jpg

    Jesse Ferguson

    Political Leaders Program

    Class of 2004

    Jesse serves as the Communications Director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

    He was Brian Moran's Chief of Staff during Moran's tenure as Democratic Caucus Chairman in the Virginia House of Delegates and was also the communications director on Moran’s Democratic primary campaign for Governor. Jesse is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and a co-founder and former Executive Director of Virginia21.