High School Leaders

HSLP 2010: Day 8, Saturday, July 17
Jul 19 2010 - 10:35am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2010
Day 8-Saturday, July 17
Recorded by: Ethan Pompeo, Charlottesville

Today was an easy day, with only three and a half hours in the classroom. I chose to sleep through breakfast today and wake up to lunch (it was served in my room today) and proceeded to head to class directly afterward. Today was the start of the second half of our session here at Sorensen, and I was happy to find that our new professor, Dr. Bragaw, was energetic and had very interesting material to offer us.

Dr. Bragaw started out the class today by calling on students and asking them what they thought about last night's reading. The reading mainly consisted of editorials from Newspapers like the Washington Post and The Examiner. One explored the differences between Montgomery County and Fairfax County, while another discussed why the Fortune's 500 company Northrop Grumman chose to place their headquarters in Virginia rather than D.C. or Maryland- "because it costs less to run a business in Virginia".

After class we all returned to Bice where we enjoyed a delicious lasagna dinner. Afterwards, some other students and I ventured to Arch's Ice Cream Parlor and CVS to get some dessert and some drinks. We sat on the lawn, enjoyed our edible investments, and fervently discussed politics and our personal views. I resolved that it was a good thing that Sorensen ran for two weeks, because if it were over today we would not have had a chance to hear the logical -and in one case radical- viewpoints of our peers.

Many of us chose to use today as our "laundry day", taking advantage of the large amount of free time that was available to us. While we were astounded that the machines sucked up three dollars in an instant to wash and dry our clothes, we were ultimately relieved that the stink in our rooms were taken care of. Finally, several of us decided to go on a long night-run tonight. We started off in one large group, however half way through the run we had unconsciously divided up into three groups. We ran a total of approximately five miles.

Overall, today was a fun day. We learned a lot from our new teacher and learned a little bit about what it feels like to be a college student. We're all learning a lot and having a great time as well.

High School Leaders Program Class of 2010
Day 8-Thursday, July 17
Recorded by: Cari Lutkins, Potomac Falls

Wow! Halfway through this two weeks here at UVa! It seems like we've all known each other forever, because we have been with each other nonstop for seven days now! It's bittersweet to think that we only have a week left here, and the program is just rushing through, so we barely notice each day passing. Even today just flew by, and I'm amazed that I'm sitting here writing this blog about my day.

I woke up today, and was relieved to see the clock saying 10:09 a.m. Three extra hours of sleep is really what we need, because we have been just been working nonstop, from policy group meetings at 7 a.m., to reading group meetings from 11 p.m. to 12 a.m. Catherine, Nicole, and I decided to go out in Charlottesville and just enjoy the beautiful morning. We went to a little shop called Duo, which is part boutique, part secondhand shop. We had an awesome time there, spending an hour of just pure shopping! When we told the boys, we got the normal response: "I just don't get it. How can you spend an hour trying things on and looking at the same clothes over and over?" Well, somehow Nicole, Catherine, and I manage!

For our 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. class today, we were introduced to Dr. Bragaw, our new professor for the upcoming week. Dr. Bragaw is a professor at Sweet Briar College, teaching Political Science. It was a treat for all of us to meet and get acquainted with Dr. Bragaw, but he wasted no time with chit-chat! We dove right into the material and were soon challenged by discussion with our classmates about one of the articles we read as homework, "Tale of Two Counties", from the Washington Post. We were asked to discuss the article's presentation of the great divide between Fairfax and Montgomery county. Currently, Fairfax is thriving, while Montgomery is an economic crisis, and we were confronted with the facts and statistics about both counties.

Soon after class, I met with my policy group, and we quickly got to quietly tapping away at our laptops, busy and working hard in order to meet our deadline on Tuesday. It was amazing how we all sat around one table, but barely any words were exchanged, and all you could hear were people tapping on their keyboards, and Mac's occasional Miley Cyrus playing from his headphones (Sorry, Mac!). The group started out this week with a lot of heated discussions, but now we are really working together and are all in it for the task at hand.

I was really in for a treat when my grandparents came to visit me here, and we went out to dinner with my closest three friends here! Mac, Mary Gray, and Locher all accompanied me to the Mellow Mushroom with my grandparents for some of the best pizza in Charlottesville. There wasn't a silent minute at the table, with talks about the program, politics, and everything embarrassing about me that you could possibly bring up! (Just kidding, I'm very lucky that I persuaded them not to bring out the baby pictures!!) Dinner was the highlight of my day- getting to see my grandparents and being in the company of great friends.

Although the minutes and hours can sometimes go by slowly, the days are speeding by like crazy. I cannot wait for the upcoming week, and to see what Dr. Bragaw has in store for us, and spending another week here at UVa, my favorite place in Virginia.

HSLP 2010: Day 7, Friday, July 16
Jul 19 2010 - 9:54am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2010
Day 7-Friday, July 16
Recorded by: Jacob Kaufman-Waldron, Charlottesville

My annoying doorbell alarm started my day today at 8:10-a few hours earlier than I would prefer but something I’m getting used to-and I began getting ready for class. My suite was, as always, among the last to get downstairs for the arduous walk to class. The route has gotten shorter though, through a few perfected shortcuts I think we have shaved as much time as possible.

We began the fast paced day right away with the presentation on the Dillon rule and a debate on whether the Dillon rule is fair for localities. As with all of our debates their was vigorous participation on either side and Mark was forced to cut off discussion before things became too heated and longwinded. We finished the morning with proposals to fix transportation, taxation, and education in the commonwealth. This of course only fostered more debate and discussion, but it spread to some new areas and intriguing concepts. Our minds were stocked full of questions for our speaker.

Sean Holihan, President of the Virginia Young Democrats, took us into the lunch break with an interactive discussion of general assembly and congressional elections and the trials of “carrying” a bill. He depicted the sprint which is the general assembly session and the tendency of the body to follow the path of least resistance simply because of how little time they have. He also touched on the difficulty of finding young leaders to rally support around for local chapters of the young democrats. Overall he was an interesting and enthusiastic speaker, he was admittedly liberal, but at the same time practical and descriptive in all his views. A funny part of the talk was when John found out he and Sean knew the same guy and John exclaimed, “That’s my Bro.”

Starving, Max, Locher, Ethan, Mac, John, Jeff, and I took our Mellow Mushroom Pizza and ate lunch in a tree outside the classroom to reconnect with nature and our childhood. Unfortunately the lunch also made me a little tired and after Connie Jorgensen’s breakdown of how to approach making a bill a law I needed a five minute power nap.

Rejuvenated, I enjoyed a look at the money that flows without restriction into Virginia’s political campaigns. We went to VPAP- the website tracking Virginia campaign contributions- and awed at the 26 million Bob McDonnell received and the 21 dollars donated to a campaign in the form of beverages. From the funding we moved to an interesting look at the ads that money bought in the 2009 gubernatorial campaign including Terry McAuliffe’s on boat production. Then it was our turn and we came up with catchy slogans and messages for the upcoming congressional races.

After reflecting on what we had learned so far Mark left us with a metaphor from the godfather of Virginia politics, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson received chalices from his mentor that had been heavily used, so Jefferson melted them down into 8 cups, 4 with his initials and 4 with his mentor’s initials. Our democracy is strong and rests on principles we must respect, but it must be constantly updated, upgraded, and shared.

The night was fun, Max, Jeff, and I used the free trolley to get to the downtown mall where we walked, talked, and ate doughnuts from Max’s uncle’s stand. However, upon return we were greeted with a few trees worth of papers on the American and Virginian political structures due tomorrow. We are now officially half way done, I hope the second half will bring more fun and some baked goods, we have not received them and it is beginning to put a cramp in our time here, they will soon be moved into the need category of the shopping list.

High School Leaders Program Class of 2010
Day 7-Friday, July 16
Recorded by: Nicole Patterson, Newport News

As I wake up and roll over to one side, unsurprisingly, the first I see is my roommate Catherine knocked out with one hand over her face (because apparently she can only sleep with something on her face). Next, I see young Aquarius swimming frantically about in his bowl (details to come in later blog written by my roommate, Catherine). As we both hurried out of bed for another day in the Sorensen program, we couldn’t help but to turn on “The Mumble Song” by La Yanta and yell, “Friday, Friday!” until the song ceased.

Our first speaker today was Sean Holihan, the President of the Virginia Young Democrats. While he immediately admitted to being “pretty freaking liberal” he was surprisingly down to earth and honest about his views stating, “Obviously I don’t agree…with every little thing,” and admitting that the Democrats could lose their majority in the House during the next election. His political priorities lie in helping as many Democrats get elected as possible, working on campaigns, and focusing on policies. I completely agreed with his statement about Virginia saying that our state is a follower, not a trendsetter, when it comes to change in policies and structure. His engaging personality kept us on our toes and constantly asking questions; when he could only take one more question his suggestion was, “You guys can thumb wrestle for it.” Even John, who was too sick to barely stand, had the energy to shout out, “That dude and I are bros!” after Sean Holihan mentioned the name of a mutual friend. His insight on the world of policy and politics was refreshing.

We broke for lunch where we sat in our usual spot outside on the picnic tables, while the boys occupied their favorite new spot – the tree. Immediately after lunch, Connie Jorgensen joined us to teach us more about the legislative process. While she knows we have all learned the basics about how a bill becomes a law, her goal was to show us that it is much more complicated than simply following the steps. Using an example of employing a law about a 5 cent cigarette tax, she showed us that before a bill is even written, it is essential to understand who the supporters and opponents of the bill will be. It was helpful hearing from a woman that has seen first-hand how difficult the passing of a bill can really be.

After Connie Jorgensen spoke, Catherine and I began to fantasize about blithely frolicking through the town of Charlottesville without a care in the world. But first, it was essential for us to pack in a little more information during our Informed Citizen class about how to run an efficacious campaign. We studied the styles of both Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell’s through their advertisements, pointing out what each candidate’s themes were – Deeds’s being mainly education, and McDonnell’s of course being the economy and job creation.

After an informative day in class, the clan meandered back to Bice House to cool off and enjoy a wonderful soup and salad dinner. Catherine, myself, and our friend Cari wandered around grounds for an hour, walking up and down Chancellor Street enjoying the gorgeous sorority houses. We soon met up with others to watch them play a competitive game of Ultimate Frisbee. Catherine and I separated from the group to visit our “Special Spot” on grounds (no need to be jealous, there is not much special about it other than the fact that only Catherine and I go there). We wrapped up another day at UVa with a cupcake and a movie on my laptop. And with this, I will leave you all with the wise words from Connie Jorgensen, “Go forth and be nice.”

HSLP 2010: Day 6, Thursday, July 15
Jul 16 2010 - 10:37am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2010
Day 6-Thursday, July 15
Recorded by: Mary Gray Johnson, Fredericksburg

We're finally settling in. Each group's culminating project is now, in one way or another, in full swing, with our first deadline early tomorrow morning. The desks in our dorm rooms are being quickly covered by handouts from class and various speakers, and a daily routine has finally fallen into place.

Mr. Johnson greeted us for the first portion of the morning to lead a discussion on the Virginia constitution, then split us up into groups to make our own changes to the document. Everything from tax exemptions to means of judge appointment came up in heated discussion. We then heard from David Ledbetter, a seersucker-clad trial court lawyer from Waynesboro, who led us through the ins and outs of the judicial branch of government.

After lunch, Mr. Johnson returned to the class as the rest of the afternoon was dedicated to a formal debate. Earlier in the week, we were separated (via ‚"Sorting Hat") into Harry Potter-like Houses for us to collect "Sorensen Points". The house names, based on the last names of our Youth Program Coordinators and the real Harry Potter House names, are Van der Claw, Heatherin, Gilberdor, and Howardpuff. In this afternoon's debate, Heatherin fought against Gilberdor, arguing that the governor should have more power over the Virginia legislative body. Next, Van der Claw put up a hard fight for the use of appointments by the House and Senate for Virginia judges, as opposed to Howardpuff's fight for election of judges by popular vote. We look forward to tomorrow, when we'll find out the decisive winner of today's successful debates!

HSLP 2010: Day 4, Tuesday, July 13
Jul 15 2010 - 10:19am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2010
Day 4-Tuesday, July 13
Recorded by: Logan Ferrell, Midlothian

As a caveat, I guess I should admit that I was a bit hesitant about writing a blog entry for my experience at Sorenson and even the experience itself. However, just three days in, I am ready to renounce such hesitancy and report in.

The experience of one day, July 13 in this case, can go a long way in explaining not only the program, but also how my seemingly idealistic vision of the program was fulfilled in reality. The first speaker of the day was Mary Deviney, a humorous combination of registered parliamentarian and jewelry storeowner. Such a combination would seem at first an odd contradiction, but as I am quickly learning, much of Charlottesville and modern politics is defined by contradiction. That same such contradiction can be seen in the very lesson of parliamentary procedure: it remains a seemingly dull subject reserved for massive textbooks, but upon further reflection is in fact a collection of accepted customs and rules that separate democratic government from descending into the anarchy of forceful majority rule. By explaining the numerous motions, points, and maneuvering that bind the apparent drudgery of everyday government, Deviney used personal stories and local examples to make procedure into something I had never expected: interesting and relevant.

The class then resumed the actual UVA class portion of the program, for a “discussion” of Virginian political history since the mid 20th century. To do this, groups presented the last few decades in a competition to both teach and entertain the rest of the class, relying on anything from chalk timelines to an uncanny impression of Senator Harry Byrd.

Having rushed through history, the class replenished its energy on a lunch of Chic-a-Fila chicken, the natural meal of all political champions. Nourished, we returned to a full afternoon schedule, three guest speakers in a row. The first, Steven Jones, was the incoming director of the political advocacy organization Virginia 21. Virginia 21 was the first organization in the nation to lobby purely for the interest of college age students, an apparent anti-AARP, which tackled issue ranging from textbook costs and tuition rates, to finding jobs for young adults in Virginia. This presentation too, put a surprising twist on my view of politics, offering the perspective of someone hardly older than me, facing the same issues I face going into the college search, and meeting them with his own organization and mobilization of students. If that was a surprising perspective, the one, which followed, was even more shocking. Mostly shocking, because afterwards I discovered that our speaker, Joe Stanley, was a recent graduate of my very own high school.

Representing Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, an organization that unites progressive church groups with likeminded legislators, Joe was able to talk about blending faith and public service, advocacy and duty to higher ideals. While such things may seem like esoteric subjects resigned to ancient philosophers, he described them in anecdotes from Richmond neighborhoods I know and as a student from the same program I am in now. Finally, to offer what would seem the polar opposite perspective of a progressive organizer, we heard from Charlottesville police chief Tim Longo. Listening to him, the lessons of contradiction emerge again. We listened to a man who energetically jumped from discussing kicking in doors to the importance of building social capital, and its role in any democratically governed community. It would be an understatement to say I was surprised by his speech, because in reality the perspective he offered was totally unknown to me. His view is that of struggling to find the balance of security and community; especially the struggle of those entrusted to maintain security under the rule of law. In essence, he drew the link between the squad car and the founding fathers, explaining the importance of law enforcement in local government, as I had never seen it before. After lessons, we were again free to continue debate and discussion on our own. As for me, my day ended when a sudden rain shower interrupted an immigration debate on the Lawn: a fitting end for a day at Sorenson.

High School Leaders Program Class of 2010
Day 4-Tuesday, July 13
Recorded by: Brooks Mears, Suffolk

Today, everyone made it downstairs to the lobby on time, finally. We walked to class and had to sit next to someone new. We were in for a great second day of class and speakers! We started off the day with a speaker, Mary Deviney. She introduced us to parliamentary procedure. From this, we took away knowledge from Robert’s Rule of Orders, as well as basic information on procedures used in the General Assembly and other legislative bodies such as school boards. She wrapped her discussion up with the simple fact that parliamentary procedure is always, “the will of the majority.”

Next, we divided up into groups to prepare presentations on the political history in Virginia. We discussed Virginia politics from the Byrd Machine starting in the 1920s through the 2009 election of Governor Bob McDonnell. After about an hour of discussion and preparation, we were ready to present to the entire class. Nikki’s bubbly personality as a talk show host and Mac’s special impression of President Obama left us with memories we will not soon forget!

After a delicious lunch provided by Chick-Fil-A, three more fantastic speakers awaited us. Tom Kramer, Steven Jones, and Brittany Tyler were the first speakers to address us after lunch. They spoke on behalf of a group called Virginia21. The group was founded to encourage young people to vote and to support the interests of college-level students in the country. Virginia21 is the only advocacy group of its kind in the country. Mr. Kramer talked about legislature that the group has pushed to pass, particularly the Textbook Market Fairness Act of 2004. The second speaker of the afternoon was Joe Stanley, an issue-based lobbyist for the Virginia Interfaith Power & Light. Mr. Stanley first explained that the negative connotation associated with ‘lobbyists’ is not always warranted. After a detailed explanation of a lobbyist’s role, he discussed religion as it relates to politics. Mr. Stanley made sure to emphasize how the Sorensen Institute’s High School Leader’s Program helped him with everything in life. Our final speaker of the day was the Police Chief of the City of Charlottesville, Tim Longo. His passion for his profession was obvious, and he did an excellent job of focusing on fundamentals that we could apply to all aspects of life. Chief Longo talked about building a police force around the community focusing on relationships and trusts. He really emphasized attacking the real problems not just the symptoms.

We are having a blast here at Sorensen on day 4! We’re continuing to bond as a group and have already developed many awesome friendships! Early morning tomorrow as we’re off to Alexandria!!

HSLP 2010: Day 3, Monday, July 12
Jul 15 2010 - 8:53am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2010
Day 3-Monday, July 12
Recorded by: Alexis Davis, Chester

The first day of class at Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia was a mix of events. We all rushed to get dressed in the morning hoping we are not the last ones to meet in the lobby, and be looked down upon by our peers for tardiness. We start our walk to the classroom under a cloudy sky which shows signs of future showers; the walk is long and tiring for the female species due to the wearing heels. We arrive and the High School Leaders Program Class of 2010 officially begins.

April Auger begins the class with an extremely student involved lesson of Media 101. April informs the class that good media abides by two rules: 1. Think what your message is for your group and 2. Nothing is ever off the record. The class also engages in a task of listing five positive and five negative aspects of where each of us resides in Virginia. I found it very interesting to hear what my adolescent peers wanted from their local governments.

Barbra Kessler, a resume expert, is introduced to the class and we are told to turn in our resumes which will be proof read and corrected with the infamous red pen. She informs the class on how to improve our resumes in a more mature and professional way emphasizing detail in our extracurricular activities. Many raise their hand in questions due to their prior experiences with resumes. She smiles and exits the door, leaving the class to lunch. Lunch consists of tasteful bagel sandwiches and a simple yet delicious salad of tomatoes, romaine lettuce, almonds, and unique vinaigrette. Lunch concludes and it is back to the classroom.

Mark Johnson is our instructor for the remainder of the week. He starts off with a lesson in ethics: What it is and what does it means to be ethical? We divide into groups and discuss what components make up an ethical leader and there is much debate in the room. Ultimately, we decide a leader should be honest, fair, respectful, and virtuous. Next, we move on to ethical dilemma scenarios. An ethical dilemma is right verses right, both actions should past the test. Tricky? Yes! Did arguments arise? Yes! Did we come to a final conclusion? No! However, I personally love hearing the opinions and viewpoints of others. The most fascinating learning experience for me was toward the end of class. We learned the profile of each region of Virginia, including: population, income, economy, etc. In public school we learn about the demographics of the nation as a whole. In Sorensen we learn about issues that specifically relate to us and how we can make Virginia a better place for all of it's residents. The day concluded with a presentation from a reading group and we were released from class to humid rainy weather.

Dinner was delicious. It was a buffet of rice, hummus, pita bread, tomato and cumber salad, veggie kabobs, or meat kabobs, a middle eastern theme. We all retreated to our rooms to listen to music, text, get on facebook, or (cough) do our homework. Then our YPC Lauren took us to a frozen yogurt bar called Arch's, I had vanilla frozen yogurt with gooey brownie and banana; healthy, minus the brownie. We then retreated to Bice House to work on our homework and any other assigned assignments due tomorrow.

This experience is amazing; the people are all accepting and extremely mature for their ages, the teachers are fun and interactive, and our YPCs are always there to help us have a good time. Sorensen is awesome and I recommend it to anyone who wants to peruse a career in politics or to experience college life: it's a rush!

High School Leaders Program Class of 2010
Day 3-Monday, July 12
Recorded by: Mac Dobbins, Danville

Today was a pleasant first day of class. Although I was 3 minutes late to meet for class, I managed to still get downstairs before everyone left.

After discussing local issues in Virginia with Ms. Auger, we took a break and prepared for our speaker, Barbara Kessler. She explained to us the ins and outs of resumes as well as reference lists. After our speaker we had a great lunch from Bodo's Bagels. Our first class with Mr. Johnson followed, and we learned about ethics in Virginia politics while defining what it takes to be ethical. After our discussion on ethics, we talked about the reading from the previous night and a group presented and offered insight.

Once class was finished, we came back to Bice and were served dinner from Sticks Kabob Shop, which was almost as good as the Bodo's. Following dinner we went to the corner and picked up a few things at CVS and had food at the White Spot, which also competed with the day's other meals. Then we came back to Bice and did our homework in groups, concluding a long first day. The day was exciting, as we were all anxious to start our Sorensen experience, but we are all ready to get in the swing of things.

HSLP 2010: Day 2, Sunday, July 11
Jul 14 2010 - 2:08pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2010
Day 2-Sunday, July 11
Recorded by: Maggie Chambers, Ashland

Before I start this Newsroom post for our second day at the Sorensen Institute’s High School Leaders Program, there’s something I should mention: I am pretty terrified of falling, ladders, and heights. As my 25 classmates and I got up for the first full day of Sorensen, I was filled with trepidation, becasue the Poplar Ridge Ropes Course we were scheduled to attend would undoubtedly contain all three. Looking back at our day now, I don’t think that at that point in the morning any of us really knew how hard we’d work today, or how much closer we would get as a group.

After the seemingly endless walk (for the tired teenagers, that is), we met our guides: Scott, Chris, and Julian. They led us through the goals for the day’s program and a few somewhat awkward exercises to get closer to our Sorensen classmates, cheering for and talking to people that we hardly knew. Following this, we were split into two groups, based on various preferences, to become our two teams: the Robot Unicorns and the Flying Dutchmen. As a member of the latter team, I’m pretty confident in my ability to declare us the superior of the two. My group started with several exercises designed to build our trust in each other on the ground, and then moved on to something much bigger and scarier–the “Y.” True to its name, this was a Y-shaped wire high above the ground, which two people would have to climb up to and go across together, aided only by a belay team and two ropes.

My roommate Chelsea and I decided to go up the Y together, despite balance problems and aforementioned fears on both our parts. It took what seemed like forever, but we made it (despite several almost-falls), thanks to the encouragement of our teammates and each other. By the time I was blessedly on solid ground, I couldn't believe I’d done the Y, and I was incredibly glad that I had such supportive classmates, despite knowing them for less than 48 hours. Finally after more team-building activities, including one “helium pole” that proved impossible to get down, it was time for a lunch break.

After a nice lunch of sandwiches, chips, and much-coveted chocolate chip cookies, we were back to the ropes for more challenging activities. We started off with Nessie, a course where two people climbed up a pole, then crossed through the air on balancing beams pulled by classmates below. This proved very difficult, and it took a lot of trial and error for the team to figure it out, but by the time Mary Gray and I crossed, our classmates had figured out the literal and figurative ropes of Nessie. After that terrifying experience, we did more activities, from fitting our 13-person team onto one small block to crossing a “river of lava” with only 3 planks to get us from block to block while blindfolded.

Finally, it was time for the swing–a free-falling pendulum starting 35 feet in the air. I went first, just so I wouldn’t have any time to get more nervous. After a nervewracking pull to the top, I pulled out the pin that was keeping me suspended in the air and flew to the ground with a scream. Though the first two seconds of that fall were the most terrifying ones of my life, by the time I was on the upswing I loved it. My teammates were a little less loud during the fall on their turns, but we all shared the consensus that it was one of the most fun experiences we’d had.

After everyone had a turn and we did one last bonding activity with the Robot Unicorns, the HSLP class of 2010 was ready to head home to Bice for showers, dinner, reading, and just hanging out. When I first realized I’d have to go on a high-ropes course for this program, I was sure I’d chicken out and would be promptly mocked by the rest of my class. Oh, how wrong I was! Our experiences at Poplar Ridge brought us closer together as friends and as a class. I think that we wholeheartedly did get to know each other better, trust each other, and respect each person no matter how much they wanted to challenge themselves. Based on our experience today, I am really looking forward to two weeks with these amazing people! 

HSLP 2010: Day 1, Saturday, July 10
Jul 13 2010 - 11:02am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2010
Day 1-Saturday, July 10
Recorded by: Nikki Baily, Rustburg

Today was the first day of my experience at the Sorensen Institute at UVA. Although I was apprehensive about meeting my roommate and unsure of what to expect from the program, my fears were immediately calmed after I entered Bice House. I was welcomed with a smiling face from April Auger, the Director of Programs, and I soon met some of my peers who seemed just as enthusiastic about our two week enrichment program as I was. After an hour of unpacking, my classmates and I took a brief tour of the campus that will be our home for the next fourteen days. We visited our classroom, followed by a walk to Edgar Allen Poe’s room, and then we strolled by the famous Lawn, everyone chatting and exchanging polite greetings throughout the entire walk.

After our tour of the grounds, my peers and I all headed down to the basement of Bice House. We were greeted by massive binders filled with the reading for our upcoming classes. After the program leaders gave a quick review of the rules of the Sorensen Institute, the group played the “Super Sweet Sorensen Bingo”. Unlike regular bingo, these squares were filled with questions, and to “cover a space” players had to find a classmate who was the answer to questions designed for us to become better acquainted. Although I didn’t win, I enjoyed getting to learn more about my fellow classmates while playing the game.

After playing Bingo, we did an exercise that evaluated what ideas and images people generally associate with various political parties. Some were positive and others were negative, but not a single person wanted to claim all of the traits in any political party, showing that a label can’t express all of an individual’s ideas.

We also had the incredible honor of having a speaker, Mr. Preston Bryant, on our first day of the program. Mr. Bryant served in the Lynchburg City Council, was a member of the House of Delegates for ten years, and recently served in former Governor Tim Kaine’s cabinet as the Secretary of Natural Resources. Mr. Bryant welcomed us to the Sorensen Institute and opened his discussion with facts about the various levels of government, stating “Local government is the level of government that impacts an individual the most on a daily basis.” He then proceeded to discuss the recent BP oil spill and indicated that he has high hopes for new forms of energy such as wind and nuclear power. Mr. Bryant also spoke about illegal immigration and the health care reform, encouraging us to participate and voice our opinions on the issues.

After dinner, we were divided into groups and played another game, this time, a memory one. After having tons of laughs with my classmates about how bad we were at this game, we all were surprised with some delicious ice cream, a wonderful end to a fabulous first day at the Sorensen Institute!

CLP 2010: Day 17, Tuesday, June 15
Jun 17 2010 - 6:40pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2010
Day 17—Tuesday, June 15
Reported by: Ramon Gamble, Virginia Commonwealth University

“The default setting of American politics is conflict.” This is the message our class was left to think about as our session ended yesterday, and it is the one thought that has been running through my head since then.

Over the last two weeks, my classmates and I have been asked to keep in mind the creed of this program, and to continually contemplate the “core” values of the Sorensen Institute: trust, respect, and civility. And upon graduation, exercise these values to make an attempt to move beyond partisanship. I’ve sat through a little over 40 speakers (It’s incredible how many speakers we’ve been able to hear in only 19 days.), and not one has openly talked about the necessity of conflict in politics. In fact, I can’t recall even one who hasn’t insisted that he or she has persistently aligned themselves with the core values we are being taught to manifest in Sorensen. This is interesting. To echo some of the talk I overheard on our bus, as we were leaving the capital this afternoon, “Isn’t it a little weird that every single speaker we’ve had so far fully supports ‘bi-partisanship,’ yet as soon as you turn on a TV, or read a newspaper, or bring up a blog all you will ever hear is how much these guys are fighting with each other?” Yes. It is weird indeed.

I asked Senator Warner what he thought about the confrontational overtones Madison wove into his contributions to the Federalist Papers, particularly No. 51. His response was typical of our speakers thus far. He verbalized that there must continue to be some kind of combative discourse—for opposition is a healthy and necessary part of legislating. The real problem, he said, “is the 24/7 coverage of the media.” He argued that the media was doing our nation a disservice by solely focusing its lens on cases of inter-party strife, effectively demonically distorting day-to-day politics.

There seems to be a consensus among the politicians we have hosted: “the media is bad,” specifically the “24/7” media—referring primarily to TV. Now, I rarely watch TV, so the blatant anti-TV trolling I’ve experienced has been quite shocking. It generally goes like this: “The availability of an incessant news stream forces media outlets to continually one-up themselves. And the only way to continually catch the attention of viewers is to become increasingly provocative. The increased provocativeness consequently transforms political news into entertainment news. And because politics is reduced to entertainment it is viewed as trivial by the masses.” 

But is it really the media’s fault that our generation can’t seem to be concerned with politics? Who knows? This week we start our “Media 101” class modules. Hopefully Coy can impart some substantial information on this subject.  

Sorensen Announces HSLP Class of 2010
Apr 18 2010 - 10:26pm

The Sorensen Institute is proud to announce the members of the High School Leaders Program Class of 2010, which will take place on grounds at the University of Virginia from July 10-July 24. Congratulations to each one of you and we'll see you in July!

Nikki Bailey, Rustburg
Jerome Barnette, Chase City
Benjamin Broman, Fredericksburg
Margaret Chambers, Ashland
Adam Cohn, Richmond
Alexis Davis, Chester
Helm Dobbins, Danville
Catherine Emblidge, Richmond
Logan Ferrell, Midlothian
Locher Grove, Roanoke
Benjamin Harris, Grundy
John Janousek, Yorktown
Mary Gray Johnson, Fredericksburg
Holly Johnston, Danville
Jacob Kaufman-Waldron, Charlottesville
Ashleigh Lanza, Woodbridge
Cari Lutkins, Potomac Falls
Brooks Mears, Suffolk
Matthew Mirliani, Alexandria
Brendan Muha, Oakton
Nicole Patterson, Newport News
Ethan Pompeo, Charlottesville
Maxwell Potter, Charlottesville
Allison Reid; Herndon, VA
Jeffrey Smith, Richmond
Gabrielle Stiff, Newport News
Chelsea Stokes, Glen Allen
Andrew Teitelbaum, Arlington
Sarah Wooten, Woodbridge

PODCAST: Ali Sutherland, HSLP09 Graduation
Aug 5 2009 - 1:57pm



Chosen by her classmates to speak for the HSLP 09 graduates, Ali Sutherland really shared from the heart when she expressed so eloquently what the Sorensen experience meant to her. Ali was introduced by Sorensen's Marc Johnson (CLP 03).

Featured Alumni

  • Ralph Northam.jpg

    Ralph Northam

    Candidate Training Program

    Class of 2007

    Ralph Northam was elected to serve as the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia in 2013 and previously represented the 6th District in the Virginia Senate. He has a pediatric neurology practice at the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk where he has treated sick children since 1998.