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Bipartisanship, Public Policy Focus of Unique Emerging Leaders Program
July 30, 2013
Many young Americans are apathetic toward the government’s ability to solve problems, recent reports find. That’s not the case for 18 young adults taking part in the University of Virginia Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership’s Emerging Leaders Program. Chosen from a pool of talented applicants, the members of the program’s 2013 class believe in government officials working together to reach the best decisions for the state, regardless of political affiliation.
“Virginia’s success is all of our success, no matter what role in political leadership we fill,” wrote Christopher “Dale” Hendon, of Fredericksburg, in his biography for the program. “At the end of the day it’s about learning and growing to improve for a better Virginia.”
Jay Sinha of Alexandria wrote that participating in the program will provide “a unique chance to learn from both peers and policymakers on the theoretical and practical aspects of state government and policymaking, and the opportunity of learning how to govern during troubled times.”
The second annual Emerging Leaders Program, sponsored by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, begins Aug. 2 in Williamsburg. Kick-off events include a public keynote address by Colin G. Campbell, president and CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, on Friday. More »
The Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) is Sorensen's newest leadership development program. Designed for young Virginians who have a background in state government, the program equips participants with the tools to become more active in public policy.
We are delighted to announce the names of those Virginians who have been accepted into this year's Emerging Leaders Program.
Emerging Leaders Program Class of 2013
Ross Airington, Richmond
Jameson Babb, Richmond
Allie Baeuchler, Williamsburg
Gerald Bennett, Fredericksburg
Evan Chapman, Ashburn
Ashley Chiera, Poquoson
Jonathan Hedrick, Christiansburg
Dale Hendon , Stafford
Colin Hood, Arlington
Jonathan Judkins, Surry
LaThaniel Kirts, Chesapeake
Eve Nealon, Winchester
Abbey Philips, Richmond
Rory Rowan, Richmond
Jay Sinha, McLean
Alex Stephens, Norfolk
Jesica Turner, Virginia Beach
Fatima Yousofi, Richmond
High School Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 15: Saturday, July 6, 2013
Reported by Mattie Leibowitz, West Potomac High School and Isa Kivlighan, Stuart Hall School
Today was a very emotional day for both the students and staff of the High School Leaders Program. After two weeks of bonding, opportunities and new knowledge, it was time to pack our bags and say goodbye. The group woke up to get ready and reunited with their families and friends then headed to the Rotunda.
We took our seats and were both entertained and enlightened by our speakers: Mr. Bob Gibson, Mr. Marc Johnson, our nominated class speaker Elisha Untiedt, Ms. Lauren Gilbert, Mr. Grant Tate and Ms. April Auger. They spoke to us about what leadership means and how to apply what we learned at Sorensen to our lives at home. We laughed, definitely cried, and certainly had the chance to reflect on what these past two weeks meant.
Once we were handed our framed diplomas and golden Sorensen pins, we became part of a special and unique group of alumni, and better yet, part of the Sorensen family. After the ceremony, we took what felt like hundreds of pictures and shook hands with our mentors, speakers and friends then headed downstairs for a nice reception.
After drinks and snacks, it was time for the hard part. The group led their families back to Bice and stripped the sheets, washed the dishes and slowly watched our suites return to the state they were in when we arrived. As friends filed out, we had to say goodbye to people it felt like we had known for years. I know that I speak for everyone when I say Sorensen was a life-changing and once-in-a-lifetime experience. We had so many opportunities and learned more than I could have imagined. As we leave Sorensen and return to our summers, I know that we will never forget the things we learned or each other and that this is not the end. It's just the start.
High School Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 14: Friday, July 5
Reported by: Rachel Lim, and Deep Run High School and Nicole Jackson, Maggie L. Walker Governor's School
After a night’s worth of preparation and practice, the day of our long-awaited final policy project presentations had arrived. In the midst of crafting practical legislation to address the Commonwealth’s most pressing issues, we all took this morning to reflect on and share all of what we had learned through the creation of our proposed bills with each other and our distinguished panelists. This morning we realized that through the whirlwind of a storm Sorensen proved to be, we needed to take a minute to truly stop and appreciate the work we and our classmates have put into our projects. Although nervous for our question and answer periods held after each of our respective group presentations, we all felt tremendous relief in knowing that we had successfully achieved our goals.
After all the presentations and a little bit of time to hug and give compliments to one another, we walked to Olsson Hall for the very last time. Ms. Colleen Smith, the Director of Development, gave a speech about what we could potentially do to help with recruitment and fundraising as Sorensen alumni. We also heard a few powerful words from our fellow peers about the power of financial aid and the opportunities it affords hardworking, talented students. Next, we held an election for class president and speaker for our graduation ceremony, which was heartfelt and sincere, leaving everyone in the audience misty-eyed by the end. Every candidate gave us a whole-hearted, unforgettable speech which made us realize how much we were taking away from the program, including 29 amazing friends and dozens of mentors.
Following our last class session with Mr. Johnson, we had a few moments to get ready for our last dinner together as a group at local restaurant Horse & Hound. In addition to the gourmet salads, crisp fries, and hearty ribs, what really made this dinner special was the company. Relishing in making our last memories together, we laughed and cheered over the handing out of our superlatives. From seeing who was awarded “best smile”, to who might “quietly take over the world” one day, we savored our last meal together as the Sorensen class of 2013. Later that evening was the first annual talent show, where both students and staff graced us with their singing, rap, and dance skills, along with humorous impressions of other students and amazing beatboxing skills! The talent show again proved how extraordinarily talented we are as group, in more ways than we had ever known!
High School Leaders Program 2013
Day 13: Thursday, July 4
Reported by: Eddie Lin, Tallwood High School and Tessa Higgins, Charlottesville High School
We left at 9:35 a.m. As we took our daily walk to class, we all thought about the the ominous Budget Game.
Our instructor Mr. Johnson told us we had to balance the state budget. This was not easy, because we represented an array of views, there were many items to discuss and we were at a deficit of over $1 billion.
We were divided up into the Senate and the House of Delegates, and the two groups began to discuss how to lower our deficit.
Each group started by electing leadership. Both houses were given a packet that listed possible expenditures, reductions and taxes. Each of the groups used this to formulate a budget.
The House engaged in much discussion on many of the items, ending up with cuts and an increase in the cigarette tax. Similarly, the Senate discussed possibilities to balance the budget, and instituted a sales and income tax and cut less spending than the House.
After two hours, we took a lunch break and we then divided into groups: two Senate groups and two House of Delegates groups. These assemblies then mixed to create Conference Committees, consisting of one of each of the congregations.
Group 1 discussed the disagreements in two budgets. Because the group differed, there was much debate. In the end however, enough money was cut out (including heath care cuts) so the only tax increase was to the cigarette tax was made. Group 2 worked to create a budget that addressed disagreements. They instituted an income and cigarette tax, while minimally cutting health care.
The groups all convened to vote on the final budget. The biggest differences between the groups were Group 1 eliminating aid for coverage of Medicaid drugs, while Group 2 established income tax increase for the highest income bracket in Virginia. After much work, the plans were put to a vote. Unfortunately, there was a tie which meant that no budget was agreed.
After class, our Independence Day festivities began. Following dinner, we headed for a picnic.
Our party was short because of the practice presentations that were to start later that night. The Youth Program Managers gave wonderful advice on our presentations. After so many days, we were in that last stretch of work; as we made our finishing touches on our project, we knew that we were ready for our presentations.
High School Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 11: Tuesday, July 2
Reported by: Brian Murray, Cape Henry Collegiate School and Sofa Getachew, Washington-Lee High School
After gathering in the lobby and checking that everyone had their roommate, the HSLP embarked on another busy day of political enlightenment. In the morning, students dove into an thoughtful dialogue about the documentary they had watched the previous day, The Perfect Candidate. This film documented the ups and downs of the 1994 Virginia Senate race between Republican Ollie North and Democrat Chuck Robb. Many students expressed their surprise at how misleading the title of the movie was, as none of the candidates were even remotely close to perfect.
Later, the class divided up into smaller groups and were assigned current statewide political candidates for whom they had to prepare campaign strategies. Surprisingly, the candidate whose campaign spot received the most applause was the infamous E. W. Jackson. The faux campaign managers replaced Jackson’s controversial rhetoric with sympathetic appeals: “Was it extreme when Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves? Were the founding fathers extreme when they fought for independence and liberty? Was MLK extreme when he fought for civil rights? E. W. Jackson is extreme...ly good for Virginia”.
After lunch, Sean Holihan helped us further our policy projects. Our other two speakers were Connie Jorgensen and Waldo Jaquith, who brought a lot of extra of flair and personality into the classroom. Jorgensen charismatically walked the class through the implementation of a policy of our choosing. After going through a variety of issues such as the legalization of marijuana, sales tax increases and others, the implementation of an additional cigarette tax of fifty cents per pack was discussed. Jorgensen helped the class understand the intricacies of policymaking from inception, to finding support, and eventually defending it. The high school leaders learned a lot from Jorgensen’s enthusiasm and knowledge on public policy.
Finally, the last speaker of the day, Waldo Jaquith, explained the importance of making public records actually accessible while sharing some of his own personal anecdotes. After dropping out of high school, Waldo Jaquith created his own software to track campaign finance and the positions of numerous politicians. His hard work resulted in the creation of Richmond Sunlight and Virginia Decoded which make political information easier to understand for the general public. After the meat of his presentation, Jaquith discussed his VH1 music awards for best music website and his run in with Al Gore where he actually saved his life.
Returning from class, every student began prepping for their first full draft of their policy proposal. While in a high stress situation, every group successfully completed the assignment. As a way to end the day on a high note in preparation for the upcoming Richmond field trip, the group unwound to a showing of The Notebook.
High School Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 10: Monday, July 1
Reported by: Owen O'Hare, Carlisle School and Tim Dodson, Western Albermarle High School
As the HSLP students filed into the lobby of Bice, all were aware that only four students remained in the 2013 Sorensen Assassin game. The game had become far more competitive than anyone could have imagined in the days leading up to it and, unbeknownst to all, Yash was plotting to kill (or maybe just touch) Thomas with his lethal sock. Unbeknownst to Yash, his perfect assassination took place in a “safe zone” and soon only three assassins remained.
After an uneventful walk to class, we started the day with a wonderful talk with Nate Delesline, business editor and writer for Charlottesville’s own Daily Progress. Mr. Delesline mentioned that although social media has changed his profession in several ways, the interviews, sources, and scoops continue to play as much as a prominent role as have throughout the development of modern journalism. Mr. Delesline stressed four major points for journalists and leaders in general to follow: timeliness, tact, truth, and taste. Perhaps the most important point that Mr. Delesline made about the media was that journalists are “history writers” and that they have to get the facts straight and as fairly as possible.
Moments after Mr. Delesline finished his speech, we were treated to a surprise appearance from Sorensen’s distinguished Executive Director, Mr. Bob Gibson. Mr. Gibson proved exceptionally helpful in answering our policy questions with encyclopedic knowledge of Virginia politics, in addition to his practical advice about the best ways to get our bills to pass in the General Assembly. We may have proved a bit of a tough crowd to get away from, as our policy questions kept on coming and were quickly followed by excellent answers from Mr. Gibson.
Following Mr.Gibson’s discussion with the class, we watched A Perfect Candidate, a political documentary about the 1994 United States Senate race in Virginia between Republican Oliver North and Democrat Chuck Robb. The movie was interesting and highlighted some of the controversial factors in the campaign, such as scandals, the rise of the “religious right”, the role that race played in politics and the tremendous influence of former governor Douglas Wilder on the outcome of the election. The campaign seemed more sensational than perhaps today’s elections are, yet the themes of party influence, taking responsibility for one’s actions, and the need for a critical eye from the media were quite relevant.
After finishing the movie over lunch from Revolutionary Soup, Ms. Barbara Kessler, the Director of Career and Professional Development Programs for UVA, visited the HSLP classroom to teach a short workshop on crafting resumes. We went over the necessities that every resume must have, and Ms. Kessler also taught us how to properly list activities in order of relevance. We also completed a “bragging game” during which we learned something new about many members of the HSLP.
During the classroom section of our day, we had a major class discussion about the importance of numbers in public policy. Although numbers tend to be viewed as objective measures, numbers can be used to oversimplify qualitative issues. When numbers are utilized to craft policy, decisions must often be made about classification, groupings, and whether to include or exclude certain factors. These decisions can often lead to conflicting and misleading information, which in turn creates political tension, discussion, and debate. The discussion was philosophical in some ways, yet understanding the importance of numbers has very practical implications.
We ended class with debates about key issues facing the Commonwealth. The class was divided into six groups; groups were then assigned to a certain side of a policy issue (in the fields of education, transportation and taxation) and prepared positions to present in front of the class. Twenty minutes later, the class came together and the groups presented the opposing sides of each issue and engaged in a six minute debates.This activity proved to be engaging, fun, and fast-paced.
We returned to Bice, and the HSLP split up into groups that ventured to Starbucks, CVS, and U.Va.’s tennis courts. At six o’clock, the entire HSLP converged on Bice’s second floor to eat pizza from Mellow Mushroom over card games and tempestuous assassin encounters. The assassin game finally ended shortly after dinner with the assassin known only by his codename, “Big Bear,” pronounced the winner. As Mr. Johnson had mercifully decided not to make any work on the culminating project due tonight, the HSLP enjoyed a relaxing and quiet night watching television in Bice’s basement lounge.
High School Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 9: Sunday, June 30, 2013
Reported by: Sally Meriwether Roberts, Collegiate School and David Cohn, Charlottesville High School
Today was a more relaxed day for the participants of the High School Leaders Program. The group had a much needed morning off which most of us used to either get ahead, catch up on sleep, or to work on our culminating policy projects. Rest and relaxation was the name of the game. As the morning progressed, the residents of the second floor of Bice Hall were strewn in gaggles across the dormitory, conferencing with friends on our projects and highly anticipating the surprise activity in store after lunch.
Our activity was revealed, and we eagerly filed down to the lounge to watch a movie. We watched Men in Black 3. This was our second movie gathering, and the whole contingent was entranced. The film gave us a light hearted break as we collectively swooned over Will Smith’s witty acting. Students had the chance to either work quietly, relax, or just kick back and watch the movie. However the relaxation stopped promptly at four thirty when we began the 2013 Sorensen assassin game.
One of our Youth Program Managers, Michael, assigned all those who wanted to participate a target, who was supposed to be subdued by the tossing of a sock in their direction. After four hours of intense plotting and deception, very few were still standing. The game allowed for good natured competition as well as new and fun alliances while we tried to guess who our peers were pursuing and stalk our prey like lions in the night. Michael was much appreciated for putting in the time organizing because it was a great way to release stress and bond with our classmates as socks flew across the skies of Bice.
To finish the day, eight of us found a basketball court and played for an hour or so. It was enjoyable to play and hopefully there will be more chances to play again. It is hard to believe that we are halfway through the High School Leaders Program. We have become so familiar that it feels like we have known each other forever! There is always something happening here at Sorensen and we have loved every minute of it!
High School Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 8: Saturday, June 29, 2013
Reported by: Alana Davitt, Norfolk Academy and Amar Singh, South Lakes High School
The extra hour of sleep was much appreciated, as students awoke ready for the Senate Simulation at 10 a.m. Final facts and statistics were found, as each HSLP student prepared to faithfully represent their assigned senator in a mock General Assembly session. With “official” nametags handed out and the call to commence your party caucuses given, the politics and chaos began.
The election for party leadership was competitive, hands were raised in support, and final selections were written on the chalkboard. It was the Republicans' task to strategically select the members for each committee: Government Services, Regulation and Re-Distribution. With a dienators from the Democratic Party took their places in the rigged committees with the Republicans.
As debates commenced on the student bills, it was evident that the Republican Party had organized the docket to limit discussion on the opposition’s bills. Committee Chairs led the formal discussion and passionate points were made on behalf of each piece of legislation. Votes were eagerly cast, sometimes in accordance with the “party line”, while other times the students held true to the beliefs of the senators they were portraying. By the end of the committee meetings, some bills would make it to the senate floor for a final vote, while others perished at the forum.
After a delicious “working lunch”, the parties reconvened to strategize for the final debates, with the Republicans once again rigging the docket. The stresses of party pressure were tangible as the Democrats protested in silence to the indomitable Republican attack. Each party finally realized the moral conflicts that moderate senators face when voting, particularly when it conflicts with majority ideals.
After bills ranging from the legalization of hunting on Sundays, to implementing a non-partisan committee to investigate judges for appointment by the GA were passed, the “senators” became students again. We went back to the dorms for some relaxation and fun during which Thomas showed off his sharp-shooting Nerf gun skills while the culminating project groups discussed policy.
The nightlife kicked-off with dinner at “Citizen Burger,” and good food and company were enjoyed. After some apple cider “bottle popping,” we grouped together to collaborate on the next segment of our projects. At midnight, we filed into our rooms, looking forward to a day of rest on Sunday.
Halfway through the program we can honestly say that Sorensen has been a week of challenges but has provided us with friendships that will last a lifetime.
High School Leaders Program Class of 2013
Day 7: Friday, June 28, 2013
Reported by: Mason Davenport, Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School and International Studies and Rhea Somaiya, The Madeira School
The morning started in a frantic rush for many. Alarms were snoozed and breakfasts skipped as the Sorensen HSLP started its seventh day of activities. The only things lower than the backpacks on our shoulders were the bags under our eyes, yet the class soon reinvigorated to its chatty self as discussions of marijuana legalization and last night’s hoola hoop competition filled the walk to the classroom, arriving to a cheery Mr. Johnson.
Upon reviewing the previous day’s discussions on local government, Virginia campaign finance, and the difficulties of running for office, we dived head first into the public policy making processes. The group immediately started discussion, weighing the different models of the policy structure against each other. Whether the rock solid Iron Triangle or the multi-faceted Power Cluster model, the consensus seemed to lean towards a mixture of all four models introduced in the readings. This brought us to the “3 P’s” of a Policy Window in identifying a problem, finding a viable policy solution that exists and approving the change through the political structure. After a short break, we splintered off into our culminating project groups to view our policy initiatives through the newly formed lense of a policy entrepreneur. Mr. Johnson posed the question why “the time has come” for our policy ideas. Thoughts were shared and eyes watched the clock for the start of lunch as the morning session wrapped up.
Practically running to the lunchroom, the class arrived to a horror scene of epic portions, in that there were none. Jason’s Deli could not make the delivery, but not to fear, Bodo’s Bagels came to the rescue! All chowed down on a delicious array of bagel sandwiches while JoAnn Auger began her afternoon presentation on the Myers Briggs test. The session started with Ms. Auger directing the class to write our names with our non-dominant hands. Some succeeded, some needed help, but all realized the importance and possibility of accomplishing a task outside their personality zones. Ms. Auger challenged the class to understand ourselves and utilize the personality differences between people in the workforce. She left with a challenge asking, “I want you to be who you are... can you be okay with who I am?”
The group went off in separate directions from Olsson Hall. Some left for Bice, others headed towards the Corner for a refreshing treat to beat the late afternoon sun. At 6 p.m. sharp though, the group rushed for the dinner room to enjoy sodas and Chinese food, hands down the greatest Sorensen dinner to date. Culminating project groups scurried to eat as well as finish the preliminary report papers. With the 10 p.m. deadline passed, we popped a bottle of apple cider in celebration and devoured a surprise dessert buffet. The night ended with a viewing of a scary movie that was sure to keep everyone abiding curfew for fear of the serial killer from “The House at the End of the Street.” By the night’s end, all knew that our feelings of camaraderie transcended the short time we have been together.
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