High School Leaders

HSLP 2012: Day 11, Tuesday, July 17
Jul 17 2012 - 10:06pm

High School Leaders Program 2012
Day 11: Tuesday, July 17
Reported by: Grace Charlton, Battlefield High School and Gowri Buddiga, Maggie L. Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies

The Sorensen HSLP started off the day with an interesting discussion regarding decisions in policy-making by Dr. Bragaw. We were all engaged as he explained how leaders make decisions and the power of unexpected consequences. Using Watergate as an example, he further discussed with the class how politics evolves over time with changing demographics and technology.

After a delicious lunch of sandwiches from Mona Lisa Pasta, all of us Sorensen students were put through a resumé building workshop with Barbara Kessler, a faculty member of U.Va.'s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. She discussed with us how our resume will change as we age and earn more qualifications. Next, we began to watch All the President's Men, a movie portraying the journalist's point of view about the Watergate scandal, which was a relevant continuation of this morning's discussion.

Then, we finished our class day with the remainder of guest speakers. The first of them was Mary Loose DeViney, who discussed the relevance of parliamentary procedure in the debate and decision-making process. She emphasized throughout the presentation that parliamentary procedure was created with a system that respected the opinion of the minority, while letting the majority prevail. The second of our speakers was John Scott, the chairman of the Young Republican Federation of Virginia. In his presentation, the class learned of the organization's partisan activities throughout the Commonwealth.

We all enjoyed kebabs for dinner and worked long into the night with our policy groups on culminating projects. Tired from a fun day at Sorensen, HSLP students were glad to get some sleep before tomorrow's big trip to Richmond.

HSLP 2012: Day 10, Monday, July 16
Jul 16 2012 - 10:26pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 10: Monday, July 16
Reported by: Marc Petrine, Maggie L. Walker Governor's School and Karen Xia, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

After a short and restful weekend, we were all ready for a fun-filled day with Dr. Steve Bragaw. We spent a whopping six hours listening to our eloquent teacher speak about policy paradox, Brazil’s government led by the charismatic President Lula, and the recent controversial health care reform.

During our morning session, Dr. Bragaw critiqued our culminating project ideas and elaborated on our assigned reading. Regarding policy paradox, he explained that there are three parts to every public policy model: reasoning, society and policymaking. Dr. Bragaw was so enthusiastic about policy paradox and equality that he brought in two delicious plates of brownies to share with the class. After the morning session, we enjoyed even more treats during lunch in the form of wraps and cookies from Revolutionary Soup.

After the delectable lunch, Mr. Bob Gibson visited us to discuss our group projects further. He questioned every group thoroughly on their topic and offered some insight on communicating with the media. Bob also grilled one member of our class, Will, and had an interesting conversation with him on topics ranging from local government to gay marriage. Then, Mr. Gibson unfortunately had to depart.

In the afternoon session with Dr. Bragaw, he expounded upon the Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare”) about which the Supreme Court recently set a historic precedent. We discussed the implications of this act and how it will impact future generations. It was a relevant and interesting topic to wrap up the class.

We concluded our workday with a wonderful barbecue dinner hosted by Room 203. We are continuing to work very hard on our papers and proposals for the final culminating project. We look forward to tomorrow with eager minds. 

HSLP 2012: Day 9, Sunday, July 15
Jul 15 2012 - 11:31pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 9: Sunday, July 15, 2012
Reported by: Laura Houchens, Douglas Southall Freeman High School (Richmond) and FitzHugh Johnson, Fredericksburg Academy

We woke up this morning well-rested and ready to start the day. Some went to Bodo's Bagels, but most just relaxed in our dorms and did some chores. It was a happy day for everyone because of the relaxed schedule, giving everyone the ability to take a breather and rest. We met for lunch at noon in Bice House. Lunch was catered by The Market and contained sandwiches, chips and a cookie.

After lunch we headed to the lawn for a public speaking lesson. Tony Sanchez, a professional actor, taught us how to utilize our voices when speaking to a crowd through correct phonetics and intonation.

After a quick break to change, we went to the parking lot for a fun activity to put a big smile on everyone's faces! We played a game called "gladiator" which was run by Troy Ehardt and Todd Galyean. After a long and competitive water balloon battle, James and Marc, roommates and close friends, entered the arena for the championship round. Although James was victor, they shook hands like gentlemen and put their differences behind them.

Dinner was soon to come; Chipotle was on the way. After a little Mexican fiesta, we parted ways and started working in our groups for the culminating project. With a 12 a.m. deadline, each group buckled down to complete the literature review. After tiring work, we are ready to get to bed and wake up for another busy day!

HSLP 2012: Day 7, Friday, July 13
Jul 13 2012 - 10:55pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 7: Friday, July 13
Reported by: Suchita Chharia, Loudoun Valley High School and Bella Blackney, Global Studies & World Languages Academy at Tallwood High School (Virginia Beach)

We awoke this morning knowing today would unfortunately be our last class with Mr. Marc Johnson and the end of the program’s first session, “The Informed Citizen.” We began the class with “takeaways” where we discussed what we learned in our last class or during the program. Excitingly enough, Mr. Johnson announced Group Three was the winner of Wednesday’s presentation on the development of American parties. All members of the group were awarded a delicious scone from a local bakery.

Next, Mr. Johnson divided the room into four groups and each group was assigned to discussing the executive branch, legislative branch, judicial branch or local government. Each group then shared what was discussed within their groups. Dillion’s rule and checks and balances were emphasized during the discussion. We then discussed our homework articles on education reform and transportation. There was some great discussion with many interesting and diverse perspectives offered. Also, we discussed campaigns and watched some real campaign videos. After dissecting the videos, we realized how certain details (such as defensive tactics, traditional family appearances, etc.) were carefully planned to send specific messages to viewers.

Following the videos, we were put into groups and challenged to make our own campaigns. Each group represented Romney, Obama, Kaine or Allen and each group then shared their information and radio ads. Now with only minutes left of the class, Mr. Johnson had us answer four brief evaluation questions. While we were answering these questions, he gave us a heartfelt summary of his experience with us this past week. Although he only taught us for five days, we have learned so much in these past days and what Mr. Johnson taught us has truly left a mark on our political treasure chests of knowledge.

After a delicious lunch of pizza from Mellow Mushroom, we returned to our seats quickly to each gain four Sorensen points. Our first speaker of the day was Connie Jorgensen, who walked us through a short simulation of how a bill makes it way through the legislature process with a proposed 5-cent tax on cans of soda. Our bill failed. But the most important part was Ms. Jorgensen answering our questions on what she will be looking for during the final presentations of our culminating projects. Then we had an entertaining speaker by the name of Waldo Jaquith, the creator of Richmond Sunlight and vacode.org. These two websites are useful to us because they allow groups to check for previous legislature relating to our culminating project topics.

With class adjourning at 3 p.m. today, we walked back to Bice to finish the first drafts of our preliminary reports. At dinner we were greeted by various types of soups and cornbread. Following dinner, quite a few of us walked to the corner to pick up some basics at CVS, to see if the book store was open or to grab a drink at Starbucks. We finished the night with finalizing our reports while debating details and grammatical errors. We're halfway through our time at Sorensen and we've grown closer to each other through our hard work. We look forward to what second week will bring with a trip to Richmond, media training, final presentations and graduation. 

HSLP 2012: Day 2, Sunday, July 8
Jul 9 2012 - 4:09pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 2: Sunday, July 8, 2012
Reported by: Ryan LaMura, Benedictine College Preparatory

The march from the dorms to the ropes course early this morning can only be described in one word: scorching. However, the heat of the day could not break the spirits of each young leader. We were warmly welcomed by the ropes staff and preceded to the course.

Once there and firmly strapped in, each student attempted to scale a rickety pole and claim a small victory. Although many were initially afraid, each and every student managed to overcome any fear they may have had and were able to complete the course. 

As the day wore on, and the heat continued to increase, we were moved inside to what was considered by many as the best part of the day. We were once again split into two rival groups and went through various team building activities. One activity that truly stood out dealt with the removal of radioactive material from a containment zone. When I say radioactive material I mean tennis balls in a can, and when I say containment zone I’m referring to the large rope surrounding said can. To make this task even more difficult, nine out of the ten students were blindfolded and had to accept instructions from the one lucky individual who had the gift of sight. We were able to successfully navigate through each obstacle with great leadership and teamwork.

To test the various skills we had just learned we challenged our rival group to a game of “tank”. This wondrous game involved blindfolding a partner and leading them to “ammo”, once again tennis balls, and then helping them find an opposing team member. The team with the last one standing won. Although this was a crazy activity, the message of teamwork and communication seemed to be made clear to each young leader.

To finish off the night, all of the students gathered in room 202 for a dinner surprise. The mystery meal of the day was a Mexican feast which was welcomed by all. Although today was only the first day, it is clear that bonds have already been formed between the program members, students and staff included.
Look below for more pictures from our day:

HSLP 2012: Day 1, Saturday, July 7
Jul 9 2012 - 11:41am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 1: Saturday, July 7, 2012
Reported by: Bri Barbachem, Princess Anne High School and Jack Minchew, Tuscarora High School

At noon the journey for us hopeful young students at the Sorensen Institute began. The excitement in the air was palpable as we arrived in our rooms and began unloading our bags of clothes, shoes and plenty of food. It was an eventful day as we toured UVA in the heat of summer and met the students we would be spending two weeks with at the institute.  

We played a game of bingo where we learned interesting facts about the lives of our fellow classmates and YPMs (Youth Program Managers). For our first activity, we brainstormed about words that we associate with certain political parties. This further impressed upon us the need to keep our party affiliations to ourselves while at Sorensen.

As the day went on we had a lot of fun learning insights into the world of professional journalism from Sorensen Director Bob Gibson. We also discussed the difference between community and service and civic engagements, how the two can vary and yet be similar and how selflessness is a main drive when engaging in either of these activities. As the day came to a close, we all met up in one of the dorms for an ice cream social; listening to music, enjoying our desert and calming down after our long day of studies and travel.

Our first day at Sorensen was a success. We finished the day hanging out with each other, making new friends and discussing the various things that drove us to politics, (without disclosing party affiliation of course!) We still have a whole two weeks of this excitement left and at this rate the students could not be more excited about that.


Look below for some more pictures from our day!



Accepting Youth Program Applications Through March 5th
Jan 17 2012 - 10:39am
The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership is now accepting applications for the High School and College Leaders Programs. The High School and College Leaders Programs offer advanced, concentrated study in state and local politics, gaining hands-on training in politics, acquiring the information necessary to discuss Virginia politics and the skills to make a difference.
Students in the Sorensen Institute programs engage in substantive debate about challenges facing the Commonwealth. Students have the opportunity to learn key advocacy skills such as lobbying, fundraising, opinion writing, media and more. Students interact with Virginia's current public, private, and nonprofit leaders. Past speakers have included U.S. Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner, Governor Bob McDonnell, Governor Tim Kaine, members of the General Assembly, Congressional leaders and other policy makers from around Virginia. 
The College Leaders Program will take place from May 26 - June 23, 2012 and is made up of 30 student leaders from across Virginia. The cost of the College Leaders Program is $2,250, which includes all room and board, and scholarships and financial aid are available. Read more at www.sorenseninstitute.org/programs/clp
The High School Leaders Program takes place from July 7 - 21, 2012 and is made up 30 student leaders from across the state that are at least rising juniors or 16 years old by the program start date. Students will receive three undergraduate credits from the University of Virginia for their participation. The cost of the High School Leaders Program is $1,625, which includes all room, board and U.Va. tuition, and scholarships and financial aid are available. Read more at www.sorenseninstitute.org/programs/hslp
The College and High School Leaders Programs applicant pool is evaluated to create a highly qualified and diverse class. Participants will be chosen from among all academic majors and backgrounds. Scholarships for program tuition are available and potential applicants are strongly urged to apply regardless of financial concerns.
To learn more about the programs or to apply please visit www.sorenseninstitute.org
* The application deadline will be Monday, March 5th at 5:00 p.m.*


Positions Open: Now Hiring Youth Program Managers
Jan 5 2012 - 12:39pm

Youth Program Manager
Position Announcement

The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership is seeking applicants to be Youth Program Manager in the summer of 2012 for its College and High School Leaders Programs.

Both programs are residential at the University of Virginia. The College Leaders Program runs for four weeks from May 26 to June 23, 2012, while the High School Leaders Program runs from July 7 to 21.

Desirable Qualifications are: effective time management skills; a high degree of organization; the ability to work with high school and college students in a residential and classroom setting; knowledge of Virginia government and politics; significant peer leadership experience; experience working in a peer-to-peer counseling setting; strong written and oral communication abilities; and excellent human relations skills.  Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree by the program start date.

The regular positions will run from May 22 to July 22, 2012. During the program, youth program managers will be required to live in residence with the students every night and work on average 6 days a week, with some vacation between the two programs. There will be some limited work requirements for recruitment and review of applications starting in February 2012. Program Coordinators will receive room and board with the students during the programs in addition to a $3,250 stipend.

Applications should include a current resume and relevant references, in addition to a brief letter explaining why the applicant is interested in the position. Letters of reference are welcome, but not required.

Please submit all materials to Lauren Gilbert, Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, P.O. Box 400206, Charlottesville, VA 22904

Questions and applications can be directed to Lauren Gilbert at lauren.gilbert@virginia.edu or (434) 243-2844.  Applications must be submitted by January 30, 2012 for consideration.  Applicants will be contacted to arrange an interview.

$3,250 plus room and board during program

A. The full time position runs from May 22 to July 22, 2012.
B. Be in residence at the University of Virginia at all times when students are in the dorms with one day off each week.
C. Assist in the daily operations of the programs - supervise students during the day, be on call certain evenings to assist students, etc.
D. Travel with the programs on all field trips.
E. Advise students in preparation of their culminating project as outlined in program materials. Oversee at least one student research group.
F. Provide administrative support during the program - help with coordination of activities, contact with speakers, development of culminating project groups, evening activities.
G. Coordinate social events for the students in the programs.
H. Provide reasonable assistance to the Sorensen Institute in the recruitment and selection of program participants.
I. Assist in evaluating students completing the CLP or HSLP for academic credit.
J. Other tasks necessary for the operation of the programs as requested by the Sorensen Institute's staff.

HSLP 2011: Day 14-Friday, July 22
Jul 22 2011 - 10:51pm

High School Leaders Program
Day 14 - July 22, 2011
Reported by: Anna Paden Carson, Patrick Henry High School and Daniel Aboagye, Colonial Forge High School

It is so sad that today was our last full day at the Sorensen Institute. The 27 of us have become so close over these past two weeks, and I have no doubt that many of us will cry when it comes time for goodbyes tomorrow.
This morning we all got up early to prepare for our culminating project presentations. At 8 a.m., the hallways of our dorms were filled with chaos. All of the five groups were making last-minute tweaks to their presentations and coming up with the perfect “business professional” outfit. Everyone gathered downstairs at 9:15 a.m. to walk over to the Rotunda together. All the groups were clearly nervous. People were counting to make sure they had all of their note cards, asking everyone how their outfits looked and doing some last-minute shoe shining.

The 27 of us got to the Rotunda at approximately 9:30 am. There were about 50 chairs set up with a podium at the front of the room. We all waited for 30 long, arduous minutes for the panel to arrive and take their seats. The panel judges included Del. Joe Morrissey, Del. David Toscano, Bob Gibson and our teachers Steve Bragaw and Marc Johnson.

Each group had a 10-minute presentation followed 10-minute question-and-answer period. All of the five groups did extremely well, explaining their proposition thoroughly and speaking with poise. The panel responded well to each groups’ proposal and respected all of the groups’ obvious hard work. The presentations, in total, took two hours, and then the 27 participants in the 2011 High School Leaders Program were free to run wild.

Please note: by "running wild", we of course mean napping, dancing, singing, eating and watching "The West Wing"! Everyone took the afternoon off, relaxed and enjoyed the air conditioning on this extremely hot day.
At 5 p.m., everyone got dressed up for a celebratory dinner at Baja Bean. Earlier in the day, all of us were asked to fill out a survey nominating others for superlatives like "most likely to become governor", "most likely to switch parties", etc. At dinner, every person received a superlative describing them personally.

After dinner back at Bice House, everyone had to start to clean their suite. People were running to all of the rooms, trying desperately to find the right number of bowls to turn in to the Youth Program Managers. Tonight, in true Sorensen fashion, we will have a rave in the basement.

It has been an honor to be a part of the Sorensen High School Leaders Program. We have enjoyed these two weeks immensely and will miss all of our fellow classmates. Thank you all for such an amazing experience, and we hope we will cross paths again in the future!  

HSLP 2011: Day 13-Thursday, July 21
Jul 21 2011 - 10:28pm

High School Leaders Program
Day 13 - Thursday, July 21
Reported by: Irene Koo, Deep Run High School and Victor Reczkowski, Patrick Henry High School

Today was our final full day of class. After briefly discussing the previous day’s visit to Richmond and Tuesday’s Budget Game, Dr. Bragaw made the focus of the rest of the class a reexamination of what we have been discussing over the past two weeks. We discovered some of the confounding questions confronting our policymakers today and how ideas in the world of policy-making have consequences... and not always good ones. What is the American Dream, and how does it affect us?

After a lunch from Chick-fil-A we had our first speaker of the day, David Rexrode, Head of the Virginia Republican Party. He recounted his experiences in the world campaigning as early as his sophomore year in college. He did not intend to make politics a career, but one job led to another until he found himself working for the Republican National Committee. Mr. Rexrode helped lead the party to its big successes in 2009 and 2010 and is very optimistic about the party’s fortunes moving forward in the Commonwealth and around the nation.

As the High School Leaders Program for 2011 came to a close, the class also voted on who would be our speaker at graduation. The final two were Daniel Aboagye and Griffin Spencer, with Daniel eventually winning by one vote. The whole class is excited to hear him speak this Saturday about his experience at Sorensen. Also approaching soon is each policy group’s presentation to a panel (which includes Sen. Creigh Deeds, Del. Joe Morissey and our two professors) tomorrow. As preparation for the Q&A portion of the presentation, we heard today from Adam Rhew, a reporter for NBC29 and a journalism and political science major. He asked each group various questions and gave pointers on the best way to appear confident and knowledgeable in front of the legislators.

Tonight, all the policy groups will be doing a practice presentation in front of the youth program managerss in preparation for the real presentation tomorrow. The evening will be filled with a lot of work and last-minute practice runs, with everyone hoping to present their policy proposal successfully. After having so much fun and making so many amazing friends over the past two weeks, we all feel some sadness about the program ending, as well as anxiety about the culminating project. Everyone is definitely looking forward to tomorrow afternoon and the celebratory dinner, as bittersweet as the last day may be.

Featured Alumni

  • Chuck Smith.jpg

    Chuck Smith

    Political Leaders Program

    Class of 2005

    Chuck is a self-employed attorney and current candidate for Virginia Beach City Council. He is a a former Marine and U.S. Navy JAG Officer (Retired). From 2006 to 2008, Chuck served as Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach.