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HSLP 2013: Day 5 - Wednesday, June 26
Jun 26 2013 - 11:53pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 5: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Reported by: Yash Tekriwal, Maggie Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies and Jack Boettger, George C. Marshall High School

Wendell Berry once said, “The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.” Albeit lengthy, Berry speaks to the sometimes forgotten rural spirit that plays an elusively indispensable role in our everyday lives. As our Cave of the Wind Farm guide, Gerald Garber told us, “Farms are what put food on everyone's table.” As our society becomes increasingly urban and suburban, we sometimes forget the gratifying feeling of immersing ourselves in the nature around us. Rarely do we trade the commotion and hubbub of the city for the feeling of a ride through corn fields and cow pens, with no sound for miles except the roar of the tractor. At Cave of the Wind, cows are the central source of business. Mr. Garber informed us of the enormous scale of Cave of the Wind, where an average of 1.5 million gallons of milk are produced annually. Interestingly enough, cows are not milked for 365 days in the year. Contrary to our previous beliefs, cows must take a break of close to 60 days every year in which they are termed as “dry cows” and cannot produce milk. After spending time with the cows and exploring the farm, we departed for lunch at Clementine Cafe in Harrisonburg.

After consuming our wide spread of home-made sandwiches and chips from Clementine Cafe, we remained in the basement to listen to our speakers for the day, Richard Baugh and Abe Shearer, members of the Harrisonburg City Council. Rather than merely speaking to us as the average speaker might, the following hour ensued of deep and thoughtful Q&A between Sorensen HSLP students and the two city council members. Over the hour, we covered a variety of issues, the most important being the recent renaming of a street in honor of Martin Luther King, a seemingly inconsequential action that has sparked intense disagreement amongst the residents of Harrisonburg. In addition, we learned of the history of annexation in the Harrisonburg area, and its importance in terms of territory in early years and its lack of relevance in contemporary borders. Perhaps the most important lesson of all however, was the difficulty of juggling the responsibilities of a public office and also those of their other careers, and the amount of true commitment to their respective constituents the job(s) entail.

Finally, to finish off the day, Eddie Bumbaugh, led our group on a fascinating tour of Harrisonburg, explaining the vast diversity of architectural placement and design of the city, as well as plans for expansion in order to put Harrisonburg on the same level of cities like Richmond. After our short but enlightening walk through the city, our very own Lauren Gilbert led us on a tour of James Madison University (JMU), perhaps giving a more interactive and interesting tour than any guide possible could have. As we explored the pulchritudinous campus of JMU, we bandied about the JMU fight song and laughed nervously as we all perched ourselves on the infamous “kissing rock” in the Quad. Throughly amused, we returned to Bice House to delicious lasagna cooked by Mona Lisa Pasta. Exhausted by the informatively educational and physically taxing day, we dedicatedly organized ourselves into our culminating project groups and then decided to retire for the day.
 

HSLP 2013: Day 4 - Tuesday, June 25
Jun 25 2013 - 11:56pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 4: Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Reported by: Hayley Batten, Jamestown High School and Elisha Untiedt, Chilhowie High School

In the morning we learned about the History of Virginia politics. Mr. Johnson split us up into five different groups to present the reading that we had the night before. Each group gave a presentation, showing a PowerPoint or acting out the information. Personally, the acting was my favorite. We learned about the power of the Byrd Machine and its fall with the death of Byrd Sr. We then moved on to the return of the Republican Party in the commonwealth with the election of Linwood Holton as governor. Virginia was starting to become a purple state, contrary to the state's history of being a solid blue state. We then transitioned to the Allen and Warner administrations and focused primarily on Mark Warner’s strategies in the 2001 gubernatorial election with respect to targeting the south and southwest regions of the state. Furthermore, we learned about how well Governor Warner worked with delegates and senators from across the aisle to fix the budget. The presentations closed with remarks on the current political state of the commonwealth by discussing the election of Governor Bob McDonnell and President Obama carrying the state in 2008 and 2012.

In the afternoon we had two guest speakers: Jeff Britt and Felix Sarfo-Kantanka. Mr. Britt and Mr. Sarfo-Kantanka work for McGuireWoods Law Firm, which happens to be the largest law firm in the commonwealth. The speakers explained their jobs at McGuireWoods and how they play a role in the legislature. Mr. Britt described his life in politics working with the Virginia Republican Party and working for Governor Gilmore. Mr. Sarfo-Kantanka’s political experience was rooted in being one of the head policymakers for Governor Kaine. They both described how they utilized their past political connections to lobby for McGuireWoods.

After the speakers were done, we went into depth about Virginia Constitution. Sorensen High School Leaders separated into groups and talked about what we wanted to change in the Constitution. Further into the day we ended up debating until the end of class about what we all wanted to change. 

HSLP 2013 : Day 3 - Monday, June 24
Jun 24 2013 - 10:29pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 3: Monday, June 24
Reported by: Eric Asplund, Douglas S. Freeman High School and Peyton Wall, Fuqua School

Today was the first day of class at Sorensen HSLP. We woke early and prepared for the day before meeting up in the lobby and the trudging over to Olsson Hall for our class. Ms. April Auger joined us for a talk on ethics, where we discussed the qualities of a successful and responsible leader. We created a moral code of these qualities:

• Has integrity
• Objective
• Just
• Compassionate
• Accountable

We also produced a list of ideal qualities that a state should have. Things like energy efficiency, security and fiscal responsibility topped that list. This was followed by a discussion what kind of leader would be able to tame that kind of state as well as what kind of leaders we have and how they are perceived. Using case studies, we analyzed various types of ethical dilemmas that politician experience. This experience was best summed up by Thomas Jefferson: "Never suppose that in any possible situation or under any circumstances that it is best for you to do a dishonorable thing however slightly so it may appear to you…"

After a delicious catered lunch from Revolutionary Soup, we discussed local issues in our respective parts of Virginia, as well as issues existing throughout the Commonwealth. From the list of issues, we chose five specific areas that became our focus topics for the culminating project. They include public welfare, education, transportation, economy and government focus and practices.

Next we met our instructor Mr. Marc Johnson. He introduced us to our course and went over the basic topics that we would cover and the mechanics of the coursework. We discussed the reading first and held a poll on whether or not Virginia is a “red” or “blue” state. Many arguments were heard on the political leaning of the state of Virginia. Most of us agreed that Virginia is purple. We then continued on to the demographics of Virginia, which concluded our first class day.

We retired to Bice and proceeded to work. And work.
 

HSLP 2013: Day 2 - Sunday, June 23
Jun 23 2013 - 11:16pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 2: Sunday, June 23
Reported by: Sophie Webb, Western Albemarle High School and Sarah Todd Ashman, Douglas Southall Freeman High School

Today, we got up bright and early and walked twenty minutes to Poplar Ridge, an outdoor facility at U.Va. that focuses on problem solving team building. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. we participated in both low- and high-ropes activities. As soon as we arrived, we jumped into action, playing "Alaskan Baseball", in which two teams attempted to pass an object down a line in the shortest amount of time while the other team kept score by running laps. This activity was a great start to a fun-filled day because it introduced all of the ideas that we would be focusing on throughout the project: communication, positive energy, leadership and cooperation.

Throughout the day, these themes were reinforced through many activities. Some of the low ropes activities were Zoom (where the entire group had to order a series of pictures so that a ‘zoom’ effect was created), Whale Boat (where groups of 15 balanced on a seesaw-like piece of wood) and Mines (where students had to memorize a certain pattern and guide their teammates through without the aid of verbal communication).

As we continued through our day, we challenged ourselves in various ways, including participating in elements of a high ropes course that proved much more challenging than we originally thought. There were two different high ropes elements that we used today. One, called the High Y, involved climbing a pole while a partner climbed a pole across from you, and then moving together along the ‘short arms’ of a Y before moving down to the end of the element. Another element involved climbing a pole and then crossing a moving set of wooden planks, which were controlled by our classmates on the ground. These activites helped to teach us to trust one another, have faith in ourselves, and work outside of our confort zones, which we found extrememly rewarding.

The day also succeeded in allowing us to get to know one another more, especially those in our group. Because it was only the second day of the program, spending time and talking with our classmates helped improve the sense of comraderie and closeness in our group. We really appreicated the team-building knowledge we gained at Poplar Ridge and the oppurtunity to strengthen friendships within our group.

HSLP 2013: Day 1 - Saturday, June 22
Jun 23 2013 - 12:45am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 1: Saturday June 22, 2013
Reported by: Benjamin O. Zook, Loudoun Valley High School and Tyler Ambrose, William Fleming High School and Roanoke Valley Governor’s School

The much-anticipated first day of the Sorensen High School Leaders Program started out with an uncomfortable but enjoyable tour of the U.Va. Grounds. After awkwardly getting to know one another in the nearly insufferable heat, we convened in the basement of Bice House to go through the basic rules, procedures and expectations.

However, we were then engaged in a simple, but informative and intriguing, activity. Lauren and our Youth Program Managers had us each call out buzz words commonly associated with five political parties (Democratic Party, Republican Party, Independents, Green Party, and Tea Party). After the very humorous and informative ordeal, we asked ourselves, “Did these buzz words accurately represent each party?” and “Would we be willing to identity with each and every one?” The answer was a unanimous "No!" Lauren then explained why it is essential for us not to immediately reveal our political affiliation upon first meeting one another—to prevent any quick and reactionary judgments that we so naturally make when identifying a person to political party.

Now that we had established the importance of avoiding bias, we divided into small groups of five to generate mission statements for the Democratic and Republican Party. When we read the mission statements aloud, the core beliefs of the two major parties were much different than the stereotypical terms we mentioned earlier. We learned from the activity that even though both parties in today’s political atmosphere seem horribly polarized, at the end of the day, their goals have more in common than what we initially think.

We were dismissed for a scrumptious dinner of pulled pork, mac-n-cheese, coleslaw, and beans and rice, all provided by Eppie’s. Awaiting us was guest John Thomas, the director of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. Mr. Thomas described in astounding detail the changes of Virginia’s political atmosphere and offered stimulating insight on pressing political matters. These matters included gerrymandering and how it accelerated the polarized atmosphere in the United States, the importance of business leaders in influencing legislation, and how politics and campaigns have evolved to focus more on the individual, along with numerous other issues like voter turnout. Mr. Thomas's political knowledge proved to be most impressive and revealing.

The day culminated with social activities including Super Sweet Sorensen Bingo and ice cream. We retired for the day eager for the physical challenges that awaited us at the upcoming Poplar Ridge ropes course and the rest of the program.  

CLP 2013: Day 10 - Monday, June 10
Jun 11 2013 - 12:22am

College Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 10: Monday, June 10
Reported by: Daniel Ku, Virginia Commonwealth University

The 2013 College Leaders Program welcomed a series of guest speakers today before class began with Dr. Kidd. These practitioners represented a variety of fields: journalism, criminal justice, private sector consulting and campaign management. These individuals provided further insight in their areas of expertise, sharing how their experiences shaped the values they try to instill in junior professionals today.

Nate Delesline is a journalist from the Daily Progress who began his career in Vicksburg, Miss. after graduating from college in Delaware as an education reporter. Shortly after, he relocated to Culpepper, Va. where he spent much of his time covering stories within a heavily Republican district and stories about Gov. Bob McDonnell. He shared his approach in covering any story with three major points: timeliness, point of view and truth. Often times, journalists are faced with a deadline and it becomes a challenge to find compatible times to interview people. Other times, people are reluctant to express their opinion through the media.

Tom Longo, Charlottesville's chief of police, began his career in 1993 as Baltimore police officer. He began his story by saying that he thought that everyone shared his values. However, his mind changed when he was tasked to investigate police corruption. He shared an incident where he worked on a sting operation to investigate a police officer allegedly stealing money from citizens. Another police officer from Howard County was brought in to arrest the corrupt officer because he stole $360 dollars. “You can’t test for integrity–you’re testing for compliance to uphold his duties.” The moral of the story was that people make bad decisions because man has free will. In that way power can corrupt you. He concluded his thoughts by saying, “Mediocrity is the leading cause of misconduct–a failure to hold people accountable. It’s also laziness.”

Sean Holihan of Englin Consulting communicated the importance of advocacy in promoting legislation. He reminded the class of how powerful of an impact a legislator’s constituency has on his voting record. We were also reminded to always know your audience, from the subcommittee up. He also shared that you should not talk to people about you want to hear, but about what they want to hear. Mr. Holihan delved right into offering constructive criticism and advice concerning our culminating projects.

Jean Jensen was our fourth and final speaker this afternoon, talking to us about running a campaign, the importance of transparency and making into office. Jensen is the former secretary of the State Board of Elections, and executive director of the Democratic Party of Virginia as well as president and executive director of a national women’s political organization. In her talk, she gave us three separate points to keep in mind while we move forward in our political careers.

  1. Know the laws and know the rules. The fastest way to mess up a political campaign is to "get your hand caught in the cookie jar" because you didn't understand the law. 
  2. Hire fast. The first people you want on your campaign are a treasurer, fundraiser, webmaster and chief of staff. Your treasurer will be your most important role on the campaign; without money, you don't have a campaign.
  3. Put together lists. Tap all of your resources when starting out. Friends, family, professional resources and, of course, our Sorensen network.

Her final lessons for us were: always take the highroad, and, in the spirit of bipartisanship, "check your donkeys and elephants at the door".

We finished the day with Dr. Kidd talking about Dillon's Rule in Virginia and our K-12 education system and the hike in sales tax, as well as the repeal of gas taxes coming down the pike and how it would support the transportation and infrastructure throughout the Commonwealth. It was a lively discussion and engaged debate about local and state government within Virginia.

After a long and very thrilling day, every memeber of the class is ready to begin their campaigns, policy work and advising as soon as we graduate!

CLP 2013: Day 9 - Sunday, June 9
Jun 8 2013 - 10:37pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 9: Sunday, June 9
Reported by: Max Maurer, Hampden-Sydney College and Kate Cudé, Piedmont Virginia Community College

The College Leaders Program had the opportunity to sleep in a bit this morning. However upon waking up, everyone was ready for the challenges that the day ahead would bring.

Each person in the class was assigned to represent a Senator based on Virginia’s 2013 Senate. First each class member prepared a background report on their assigned Senator. Michael Nolan acted as “Governor Nolan” during the simulation. Next, the class separated into their respective caucus groups and developed a platform on which their party would develop a strategy.

Until lunch the class members discussed and voted upon bills, previously proposed by each Senator, within their corresponding committees: Regulation, Redistribution, and Government Services.

Lunch was a much-needed delicious delight, catered by The Bellair Market. During the working lunch, Sorensen students walked the hallways of Thornton Hall lobbying for their bills and making deals in preparation for the final caucus meeting before the Senate session.

After lunch, caucus meetings were held. Excitement grew as each party narrowed down the specific bills they intended to support within the Senate session.

The Republican caucus walked out when they did not agree to the way things were being run for this part of the legislative session. After a brief recess, everything went back to normal. Most of the bills passed; however, there were two vetoed bills with one of the bills passed only by the Senate by overriding the governor.

We are currently making corrections to our legislation and working on press releases for our bills in time for the early-morning deadline. 

CLP 2013: Day 8 - Saturday, June 8
Jun 8 2013 - 10:35pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 8: Saturday, June 8
Reported by: Claire Nadolski, Lynchburg College and Andres Chovil, George Mason University

We started off the day meeting up in one of the suites for lunch (yes, we had sort of a late start today) at noon. Several of us worked in groups before lunch to research our assigned senators and create a piece of legislation that they would possibly propose in the real Virginia State Senate. This assignment was due at 4 p.m. today, so several of us bounced ideas off of each other to figure out just what some of these legislators would suggest. Some of them have not produced much legislation while some are seasoned legislators with copious amounts of proposed legislation under their belts.

We also watched the movie Zero Dark Thirty together as a class down in the basement lounge of Bice. It was awesome to have a chunk of the day to just hang out together and not be stressed out working to a deadline. I had never seen the movie before and liked it very much, while others had seen it and still enjoyed just being there. We spend a great deal of time here working on a paper or working in groups, but this was just a recreational time to be college students together. I believe it is the small things like this that separate the Sorensen Institute College Leaders Program from other programs and put them infinitely beyond in quality and experience.

The class is also preparing for the Virginia Senate simulation game taking place tomorrow afternoon. Each individual has been assigned a specific role to play during this simulation. Roles assigned include current Virginia state legislators from the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as the Virginia Lieutenant Governor. Each individual is responsible for drafting a one page report on their assigned role including the following information on their particular Senator: their personal background, the specific region they represent in the Virginia State Senate, their district’s key issues, their political philosophy and ideological/ partisan agenda, their political history, their committee assignments, and the issues that they are most passionate about and have introduced into legislation. Additionally, individuals must identify other key senators that share similar political philosophies and views in order to ally themselves with and pursue similar goals. Lastly, each individual must decide on what role they want to play within their caucus. This can include taking leadership roles or lobbying for legislation behind the scenes. 

CLP 2013: Day 7 - Friday, June 7
Jun 8 2013 - 12:33am

College Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 7: Friday, June 7
Reported by: Colman Packard, Hampden-Sydney College and Jory Bunn, Old Dominion University

For Friday June 7 the Sorensen Institute’s College Leaders Program was slated to continue the discussion of the Informed Citizen. As a treat for the students, the youth program managers and Dr. Kidd brought us Starbucks coffee for the first time, which was a pleasant change to the morning session. We picked up where we left off on class yesterday and finished up our discussion on the Virginia State Constitution. From there Dr. Kidd spent some time explaining and holding a class discussion on Dillon’s Rule vs. Home Rule. We talked about the railroad builders Wynn and Stanford and how they chose different paths after creating the lines. We also talked about Landmark and the creation of the Weather Channel.

The rest of the morning session was spent discussing the creation of public policy. The majority of the discussion was built around our own public policy groups. It was structured in terms of how to make the policy germane and what that entails. We looked at how our projects could be effective for communities and the state. We wrapped up with a short talk about how to connect the elements of policy making and how it all fits into the current government's agenda.

With the end of Dr. Kidd’s informative lecture, we had the delight of ingesting a delicious lunch catered by the local Jason's Deli. The Sorensen participants added insights on Virginia’s constitution as a side dish to their chips and sandwiches before the afternoon got underway. Ms. JoAnn Auger conducted a Myers-Briggs workshop. Myers-Briggs is the most accepted and long lasting test for determining personality. For the first activity, students were divided up into two groups: introverts and extraverts. The introverts were vastly outnumbered compared to the extraverts. However each group had an equal amount of opinions for each other! As the discussion ensued about who has the "better" personality type, Ms. Auger informed us all that no matter what personality we had, we all could learn from the other types' strengths. Furthermore, the Myers-Briggs workshop gave us suggestions on how to deal with abrasive personalities and how to accept people for who they are. With our first Friday winding down, I’m sure we all had one aspect of today’s session that we will hold onto for life!  

CLP 2013: Day 6 - Thursday, June 6
Jun 7 2013 - 12:05am

College Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 6: Thursday, June 6
Reported by: Richard Pantele, Hampden-Sydney College and Rachel Brooks, the College of William and Mary).

Today’s programming was insightful. We began the day by splitting up into focus groups comprised of one member from each policy area. The purpose of doing this was to present our preliminary ideas to the other groups in order to receive constructive criticism and strengthen our policy proposals. We all found this process useful. Many of the groups found that the greatest weakness was a lack of statistical information. After the combined groups met, we brought the information we gained in the focus groups to the class as a whole. This enabled the class and the Youth Program Managers to sit and discuss each individual project. After speaking with many people in the class, I found that the general consensus was that the session enhanced the substance and direction of each group’s policy.

After a brief break, Mr. Jeff Britt and Mr. Felix Sarfo-Kantanka visited the class. Mr. Britt serves as a vice president of grassroots issues management at McGuireWoods Consulting. Mr. Sarfo-Kantaka also works at McGuireWoods and serves as their assistant vice president in the state government section of the firm. Both of these gentlemen provided valuable insight about working in the world of public affairs. I found these presentations to be useful because I aspire to obtain a career in political consulting. It was clear that the class enjoyed their enthusiasm and willingness to be honest about the sensitivity of their positions as well as their willingness to share their story about how they got to where they are. They provided a realistic view of what it takes to have a successful career in the field of public policy. One of the greatest strengths of their lecture was their description of how people who identify with opposing political parties can come together and make a strong, valuable team in organizations like McGuireWoods Consulting. It is always nice to hear from people who started their political careers at the Sorensen Institute and are now experts in their fields.

In addition to the speakers from McGuireWoods Consulting, we had a two other guests visit the Sorensen College Leaders Program classroom. Ms. Connie Jorgensen, an assistant professor of political science at Piedmont Virginia Community College, gave an enthusiastic and effective presentation on the legislative process. After trying to start a rousing rendition of the "I'm Just a Bill" song from Schoolhouse Rock, she explained the details of how a bill really becomes a law and how to improve the likelihood that a piece of legislation will pass. Doing research, finding a legislator to carry the bill and getting voter support are a few key components to success in the legislative process. Considering many people in the College Leaders Program plan to run for office, the legislative process was a relevant topic to the group’s interests and ambitions.

While we ate lunch, Ms. Barbara Kessler, the director of human resources and workforce development programs at the University of Virginia, presented a resume workshop. Ms. Kessler’s advice was constructive for all of us regardless of age or class year. We received input about what to include and leave off of our resumes as well as what common mistakes to avoid. Since we all have varying degrees of experience and different accomplishments, she collected our resumes to individually edit and return early next week. Sorensen activities like the resume workshop will benefit us in applications, interviews, and other career-oriented endeavors.

After Ms. Kessler’s presentation, we had a class session with Dr. Quentin Kidd on “The Informed and Thoughtful Citizen” in which we went over the Constitution of Virginia and discussed different articles. Despite some rain, the overall opinion of the day was that it was productive and interesting. The College Leaders Program will start off another productive day tomorrow at 9 a.m., and I am excited to see what the rest of the program brings. 

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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.