High School Leaders

HSLP 2011: Day 7-Friday, July 15
Jul 15 2011 - 10:42pm

High School Leaders Program
Day 7 - Friday, July 15
Reported by: Ryan Deal, First Colonial High School

Today marked the beginning of several different phases of our Sorensen experience. We started off our Friday classes with a review of current issues facing our wonderful Commonwealth. As would be expected, this rapidly turned into a lively debate regarding the positive or negative impacts of SOL testing for students. The different views about teacher accountability and rote memorization overwhelmed the minds of everyone present and eliminated the preconceptions that all students are categorically against standardized testing.

After what seemed like a couple of days, we halted this conversation and did some research on the Senate campaign, which is beginning to heat up. The two presumed candidates are former Governors Kaine and Allen. The class was able to recognize the necessary campaign strategies for each side to succeed come November 2012.

We then had the opportunity to present the preliminary sections of our policy proposals to our classmates. Each group seems to have an idea that could drastically improve the state of our Commonwealth. The issue areas of taxation, voting rights, civil rights, environment and education each pose their own unique challenges. They also offer creative opportunities for us to think beyond our world today and look toward a better and brighter future.

Beginning at 2 p.m., we welcomed Dr. Stephen Bragaw into our lives and into our hearts. We spent a good portion of the class discussing how the U.S. government didn't have any money. We reviewed a good portion of U.S. political history, especially analyzing specific elections of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. We also got to discuss past U.S. economics and philosophies to analyze how exactly we got to this point and what we can do about it. This concluded our day and our first full week of the High School Leaders Program. 

HSLP 2011: Day 6-Thursday, July 14
Jul 14 2011 - 10:14pm

High School Leaders Program
Day 6 - Thursday, July 14
Reported by: Dana Raphael, Washington Lee High School

Today we had class with Mr. Johnson and discussed the structure of Virginia state government. We commenced the day by analyzing the Virginia Constitution, with the purpose of revision. Our Constitution has not been revised in forty years, since 1971. In groups we proposed and voted on amendments to the Constitution. Some legalized gay marriage, re-enfranchised ex-convicts and extended the term of governor.

After lunch we were privileged to speak to Bob Sayler, author of “Tongue-Tied America.” He gave a fantastic lecture on the degradation of the art of speaking, especially among youth. In a digital age, people are spending less time talking and more time sending electronic messages. Mr. Sayler informed us that teens spent nearly half of their waking hours utilizing an electronic device.

Later in the afternoon, we used the information we gained from Mr. Sayler in a debate. Our classmates debated the structures of the Virginia governmental system. Personally, I have never been exposed to debate, so today was a new and fantastic experience for me. We also gave presentations on the structures of government, such as the judicial system and the office of governor.

Dinner was Chinese food, followed by intense work sessions. In fact I’m writing in a frantic panic right now, as 80 pages of reading and two presentations are due tomorrow. Who needs sleep? Despite the large workload, we are learning a lot of critical information and this program is a fantastic introduction to college.

HSLP 2011: Day 5-Wednesday, July 13
Jul 13 2011 - 10:37pm

High School Leaders Program
Day 5- Wednesday, July 13
Reported by: Madison Mundy, Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School, and Aejoo Hong, Heritage High School

Sorensen students woke up early this morning to travel to Alexandria. After a long bus ride, we reached Alexandra’s City Hall. We were ushered through confusing staircases and into a large room with a grand painting of Alexandria (circa 1700s). After we took our seats, we were welcomed to the city by Mayor William Eullie. He gave us several facts and figures on Alexandria’s growth, paying special attention to improvements in the public school system. Frank Fannon, a member of the city council, also gave us a warm greeting.

After Mr. Fannon’s talk, Del. David Bulova spoke about how community is often forgotten in the business of politics, reminding us how important a drive for public service truly is. Del. Bulova passed on words of wisdom, telling us his list of the most important qualities in a leader: credibility, empathy, open-mindedness, trust, and responsibility.

Del. Charniele Herring passed on similar words of wisdom. Her trials as a teen left her with a strong desire to improve her community as an adult. She also gave insight on the less glamorous side of politics, where tough decisions must be made, and not everybody wins. Despite these challenges, Del. Herring’s enthusiasm for her job has never wavered. The pride she takes in working for the State of Virginia is evident, and she encouraged the Sorensen students to face each task with pride.

After our lunch, we took a tour through Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, a charming building founded in 1785. This tavern served as the economic, social and political center in Alexandria for decades. Businessmen, dignitaries and even celebrities visited Gadsby’s, including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

We concluded our tour and returned to City Hall. There, Amy Gardner of The Washington Post spoke about what it was like to cover a presidential campaign. She gave us advice on how to write an op-ed and answered many questions from the aspiring journalists in the room.

Our final speaker was Del. Bob Brink, who gave a lecture on redistricting. He showed us how legislation, such as “one man, one vote” and the Voting Rights Act, effected the creation of the districts we have today. We discussed how migration from rural Virginia to Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads changed the set-up of districts.

Completely exhausted, we began the long trip home. Heavy traffic sparked debate between Sorensen students about transportation improvements. We ate dinner along the way and finally got home at around 9:30 p.m.. It’s been a long day for us, and with homework, group discussions and culminating projects, it is not even close to over. Even so, looking back on the past five days, every Sorensen student would agree: it is so worth it. 

HSLP 2011: Day 4-Tuesday, July 12
Jul 12 2011 - 9:30pm

High School Leaders Program
Day 4- Tuesday, July 12
Reported by: Mim Blower, Bishop Ireton High School; Hanan Hameed, Charlottesville High School; QueVonte Thomas, Open High School

Robertson Hall greeted us today with a group project about the political history of Virginia. This history lesson started with the Byrd Machine, progressed to the first Republican governor in the 21st century, continued through to the swing counties in the Allen-Warner elections, and finished up with Virginia turning Blue for Obama in 2008. Each team creatively presented their timeline through skits, political cartoons and yes, even a rap by one courageous student. This presentation doubled as a contest, but we will not discover the winner until Thursday (which prompted a consensus within the student body that this was cruel and unusual punishment).

After this discussion, we reviewed the impacts of political events in the 21st century. The conservative Democrats split from the Democratic Party to create the Republican Party in Virginia. The switch from rural campaigning to urban campaigning ultimately changed the voting demographic for candidates on both sides. Both of these changes proved to be vital in the elections of the 1960's.

This discussion came to an end with lunch. Unfortunatlely, one of the speakers was sick and unable to come. Fortunately a riveting video about the Sorensen qualities and expectations rescued us from an hour of boredom. After the video, Sen. Creigh Deeds spoke to us about the importance of determination in politics, which is most often crowded with hurdles that need to be jumped.

Next was a presentation by Brittany Tyler, a recent graduate from Longwood University, about Virginia21. This non-profit, bipartisan organization helps college students have a voice in the General Assembly, and has been very successful in its short life (since 2002). Many of the students found her speech to be interesting and helpful in deciding what they might want to be a part of when they reach college.

We ended the day with posing for our class pictures. Although it was hot and humid, the pictures of this very promising group of young leaders turned out beautifully. It was the end to another profitable day at the Sorensen Institute's High School Leaders Program. 

HSLP 2011: Day 3-Monday, July 11
Jul 11 2011 - 10:18pm

High School Leaders Program
Day 3- Monday, July 11
Reported by: Lauren Marshall, Freeman High School and Imren Johar, Oakdon High School

Today after our brisk walk to class, we were greeted by a cool blast of air conditioning in Robertson Hall, room 246. We met our professor and began our first seminar as HSLP participants. In our first lecture, we discussed what it means to us to be a good leader. We did several group activities in order to formulate a better understanding of the ethics behind leadership. We finished out the lecture with a presentation on Virginia's political landscape.

After our lunch break at noon, we broke up once more into our regional blocks. In these sub-groups we brainstormed a list of issues facing our respective locations. We analyzed each region's list and narrowed the issues down to the ones directly addressable by the state government. Along with our analysis we discussed the financial ramifications of each solution.

Shortly after, Connie Jorgenson spoke to our group regarding the process of creating a bill. First the bill must be researched and aligned with the correct political party and legislator who will carry the document. Then the bill must make it past the selected committee(s) into the House floor. This is where any amendments are made to the bill to be renegotiated. From the floor, the bill travels to the Senate where any other amendments are made. Then it is either passed or sent to conference committee for a final amendment, approval or killing.

The next speaker was Karen Defilippi. After taking a short leave of absence from graduate school to work on a campaign, Ms. Defilippi realized that campaign management was her preferred career path. She explained the ins and outs of campaign tactics and structure of a campaigning team. She also stressed the most successful ways to campaign based on the size of your constituency using specific mediums.

Finally, to end the day, Barbara Kessler came to our aid with a resume workshop. We learned how to structure and organize an official resume. Contrary to popular belief, flamboyancy is actually encouraged when listing achievements or qualifications. During the course, we practiced “bragging” about our accomplishments in an appropriate way. At the conclusion of the workshop, Ms. Kessler collected each of our resumes and will be reviewing and editing them with her professional opinion. After al long day of interesting subject matter, we departed from Robertson Hall and began the walk back to Bice.

HSLP 2011: Day 2-Sunday, July 10
Jul 10 2011 - 9:02pm

High School Leaders Program
Day 2- Sunday, July 10
Reported by: Ross Abbott, First Colonial High School and Emily Irwin, Freeman High School

The high for today was 95 degrees, approximately the same height (in feet) that most of us reached at the peak of our activities. On our first full day at Sorensen, we went to Poplar Ridge, a rigorous ropes course and team-building program. Though not all students participated in each activity, every person benefitted in some way, and a great time was had by all.

After arriving downstairs at the early hour of 8 a.m., we embarked on a 137-mile trek to our destination. Okay, maybe it was only a 20-minute hike, but the midsummer heat made it feel like a expedition across the Sahara. Upon our arrival we immediately jumped into a series of icebreaker games including our favorite, called Tanks (think free-for-all dodgeball with blindfolds and lots of yelling). Next we split into two groups to begin our high altitude excursions.

Ross's group (half of the HSLP participants), named the “Tilapia” or “T-Laps”, started on the low ropes course, working as a team to achieve seemingly impossible goals. These goals, as well as many others throughout the day, proved to be attainable only through teamwork. Later on, his group participated in a huge swing activity (the 95-foot peak) and another team-building game that involved elbow shakes, shoe stepping and silence.

Emily's group, also known as “Beluga Fish,” played a team-building game where all 14 students had to transfer everyone from the first wooden “island” to the fourth using only three wooden planks. Then they began their first high ropes course and encouraged each other to participate, despite the common fear of heights.

We had a catered lunch from a deli-style restaurant called “The Market.” We had delicious sandwiches, chips and cookies. It was quite a refresher, serving as a break between the many activities and an opportunity to sit down. The heat exhaustion hit us as we realized that it was time to rejoin our groups for the rest of the afternoon.

For the rest of the afternoon, both Tilapia and Beluga Fish climbed high ropes courses and experienced the real meaning of harness pain. Both of us agree that each person seemed to enjoy themselves as everyone was constantly laughing, helping each other and choosing to participate. In fact many of us already feel as if we've known each other for years, and it's only the second day. Poplar Ridge was truly a memorable experience (we're sure the first of many to come) and a fantastic way to begin our Sorensen experience.

Potter Interviewed by NBC29
Oct 29 2010 - 9:21am

Max Potter (HSLP 2010) was interviewed by NBC29 for his involvement with the Charlottesville High School young Liberals organization and their recent efforts to get Tom Periello re-elected. In addition, the article focuses on President Obama's visit to Charlottesville tonight. Congratulations Max!

To read the story go here.

Featured Alumni

  • Doug Smith.jpg

    Doug Smith

    Political Leaders Program

    Class of 2005

    Doug serves as the Executive Director of the Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier. He is the former Executive Director the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, based in Richmond.