HSLP 2012: Day 15, Saturday, July 21
Jul 21 2012 - 8:32pm

High School Leaders Program 2012
Day 15: Saturday, July 21
Reported by: James Bollinger, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

After waking up and meeting our parents, we walked to Garret Hall for graduation.

Executive Director Bob Gibson, Director of Youth Programs Lauren Gilbert, Dr. Stephen Bragaw and Honorable John Hager all gave thoughtful and inspiring addresses.

Lester Coleman was our elected class speaker. He gave a great send-off address, which brought back highlights of the two weeks and also captured perfectly the dynamic and bonds that have formed among us as a class.

Sean McIntosh and Karen Xia were awarded the Spirit of Citizenship Awards. Congratulations to all the graduates!

After graduation, we walked back to Bice Hall for the final time. Leaving was sad, but I’m sure I speak for all us when I say we will take many memories and lessons from our two weeks at Sorensen. It’s hard to leave, but I look forward to seeing you all at a reunion soon!

The HSLP Class of 2012 now has its own alumni page featuring the class photo as well as individual photos and bios. 



HSLP 2012: Day 13, Thursday, July 19
Jul 19 2012 - 10:32pm

High School Leaders Program 2012
Day 13: Thursday, July 19
Sean McIntosh, Edison High School (Alexandria) and Emily Votroubek, Broad Run High School (Ashburn)

As Sorensen's HSLP is coming to a close, we are all feeling the pressures of our final culminating projects. Throughout the week, we have been consulting with our both our groups and advisors on our projects, trying to fine tune every aspect of our proposals. Everyone is stressing about the projects tomorrow; however, we are all very excited to reach the home stretch.

Today, with our last day of the Thoughtful Citizen, Dr. Bragaw ended the class with the Budget Game. In this game, we had to divide our class into two separate groups, the House and the Senate. The morning started off with both sides breaking off to formulate their own separate budget proposals. After a few hours of intense discussion, both groups were divided into their own separate halves, to meet up with the opposition to start budget committees. These budget committee meetings were very heated, but in the end, both sides met in the middle to form a productive conclusion.

After a short intermission for lunch, we had renewed vigor to participate in discussions. However, this time, everyone met up with their respective sides to have the general debate on both budget proposals formulated by the two committees. After around two hours of intense discussion, it was time to vote between the two different proposed budget plans. In the end, Conference Committee One’s proposal reigned supreme, receiving the vast majority of both houses.

Afterwards, we had the luxury of some free time. However, this time was short-lived as we quickly had to convene with culminating project groups to prepare for any last-minute decisions before our mock presentations with the Youth Program Managers and Lauren. Throughout the evening, they provided essential information in order to further improve our projects. Yet, this was not just any random day. Tonight, all the Sorensen students celebrated one of our favorite YPM’s birthday. We planned a fantastic surprise birthday party for Troy, and everyone had a great time! There was plenty of cake and drinks, and there was even sparkling cider! All in all, this will be one of the most memorable moments at Sorensen, and we will surely miss it.

HSLP 2012: Day 12, Wednesday, July 18
Jul 18 2012 - 10:57pm

High School Leaders Program 2012
Day 12: Wednesday, July 18
Reported by: Jasmine Parham, King’s Fork High School (Suffolk) and Matthew Watts Grafton High School (Yorktown)

Early in the morning, we all boarded a bus excited to be going to the Richmond. After arriving and going through security, we headed to the House Chamber to meet Del. Jennifer McClellan. She spoke to us about how she became interested in politics and becoming a delegate. Following our astute dialouge with Del. McClellan, Ms. Generra Peck spoke to us on how it was working in the office of the Governor.

Right before lunch, we met with Atty. Gen. Ken Cuccinelli, who spoke on political style. After a nice, filling lunch, we met with Todd Haymore, Virginia's Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. He gave us insight into the agriculture and forestry business and how it affects Virginia's economy. We then went on a wonderful tour of Virginia's beautiful Capitol building, spotting statues of great Virginian political leaders like Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

After the tour we spoke to Del. David Toscano, the Democratic Minority Leader, about how we could improve our culminating projects. At 2 p.m., we met with Rick Savage, President and Founder of Media Directions, which provides sound strategic advice in addition to direct mail. Afterwards, we took a tour of the first floor of the Governor's Mansion, seeing its original rooms with antique furniture. Our final speaker of the day was former Del. Bill Janis, who now serves the veterans of the United States.

Finally, it was time for dinner at the Capital Ale House. With a delicious meal in our belly we were now on our way from Richmond back to Charlottesville to work on our culminating projects! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HSLP 2012: Day 8, Saturday, July 14
Jul 14 2012 - 10:41pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 8: Saturday, July 14
Reported by: Marc Cugnon, Wakefield Country Day School (Flint Hill) and Caroline Bones, St. Catherine’s School (Richmond)

Today, the intrepid HSLP class began its activities in the afternoon, following a much-needed opportunity to hibernate. The well-refreshed group was first visited Atima Omara-Alwala, Vice President of the Young Democrats of America. She began her discussion with a series of tips on how to succeed in a political career, followed by a humorous consultation on political faux pas. The group then broke for a lunch catered by Bodo’s Bagels, a Charlottesville favorite.

Following their lunch, the group was introduced to Dr. Steve Bragaw and began his half of the class, The Thoughtful Citizen. Enamored with his intellect and animated personality, the HSLP class was immediately engaged in a thoughtful discussion on fiscal trends, Keynesian vs. Austrian economics, and data analysis.

After class, the students returned to their rooms to work on their culminating projects and some of their other assignments. In the evening the group enjoyed a very popular Chinese dinner. Taking advantage of an extended curfew and free time due to the weekend, the class was allowed a small respite from its extended work schedule.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HSLP 2012: Day 6, Thursday, July 12
Jul 13 2012 - 2:06pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 6: Thursday, July 12, 2012
Reported by: William Snoeyenbos, HB Woodlawn Secondary Program and Lester Coleman, Carlisle School

Though the Sorensen Institute's High School Leaders woke up bleary-eyed, we were fully aware and ready for the challenges that laid ahead. Our class had been preparing for a simulation of the Virginia Senate, and today was when we converted to our individuals preparations into action. Each person in our class had been assigned to represent a Senator based on Virginia’s legislature in 2008. Lauren Gilbert played Tim Kaine and acted as Governor during our simulation as we formed Democratic and Republican consensus in our respective caucuses. During the rest of the morning, the Sorensen class deliberated within the Republican-assigned committees of Regulation, Redistribution, and Government Services. Using the bills that students were assigned for homework, the Senators pitched their bills to other leaders on both sides of the isle.

Lunch was a fantastic meal of catered chicken from Chick-Fil-A, devoured in a heartbeat after a morning of intellectually strenuous activities. It was not uncommon to see students lobbying for their parties during lunch in preparation for caucus meetings and a full senate session. Enthusiasm hung in the air so thick that at times it was quite hard to communicate. After lunch, members joined their caucuses and discussed strategies for the upcoming Senate Session. Finally, members were introduced in front of the full Senate and we began debating the positive and negative qualities associated with each bill being brought forth.

Governor Kaine, Lieutenant Governor (played by Troy), and the Clerk (Mr. Mark Johnson) led the heated battle between the two parties.

Our Senate simulation was a powerful experience in learning first hand the challenges that members of the Virginia legislature face. Each member understood the individual and collective frustration when specific bills passed or failed. Other bills were not successful because sponsoring Senators did not garner enough bipartisan support. Learning how to compromise with other individuals with clear ideological and practical differences proved challenging, but ultimately rewarding.

During a break from the Senate Simulation, Felix Sarfo-Kantanka, Jr. and Jeffrey M. Britt spoke from McGuire Woods Consulting about the challenges that they face as lobbyists. They spoke to the stereotypical images of lobbyists and gave us a better view on all facets of political engagement on the federal, state, and local level.

At the end of the day, after emotional highs and lows, passionate speeches, and ardent rhetoric we topped off a fast-pace day with pictures on the lawn. Every Senator was looking very dapper for the group as well as individual shots. This time was used to reflect on the limited duration of our program and it’s great opportunity. As almost reach the halfway point of the High School Leaders Program, we have the goal of striving for excellence and leaving absolutely nothing left on the table in this last week in Charlottesville.

Look below for more pictures from our day:


HSLP 2012: Day 5, Wednesday, July 11
Jul 13 2012 - 11:20am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 5: Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Reported by: Ashley Roten, King's Fork High School and Fletcher Stephens, King's Fork High School

Early in the morning, we woke up sleepy-eyed and excited about our trip to Alexandria for the day. We loaded onto the bus, filled with anticipation and most of us with pillows and blankets in hand. On the bus, some people took an interest in the movie playing (Men In Black), while others took advantage of the time in a more practical way: sleep. When we made it to Alexandria, we took in the city around us- but this was after waiting in I-95 traffic. We made it to the city hall and peacefully clattered up the stairs. Inside, we took our seats in this room that was similar to any city hall you have seen in the news or movies. Directly in front of us was a huge mural of 18th century Alexandria, which was quite remarkable. 

After a quick breather, local politicians came and shared with their insight on local, state, and national issues. The first part of our speakers included: Councilman Frank Fannon, Delegate Alfonso Lopez, and City Council Candidate Justin Wilson. All shared their views and answered our impressively inquisitive questions. Then came the one thing we really needed: LUNCH.

Lunch was catered by Potbelly Sandwiches which was the bomb! We were given an option of an variety of sandwich options. We were also given the sides of chips, a healthy salad, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and water. We all loved it!

After lunch, we went to Gadsby's Tavern Museum. There, we were given an interesting history lesson about a very important tavern that even George Washington visited. Afterwards, we returned to the city hall to continue with our last two speakers: Delegate Bob Brink and City Council Candidate John Chapman. Brink gave an informative speech on the Health Care Act and transportation issues, while Chapman gave us an important life lesson about our role in the government and how we need to stand for what we believe in.

After our impressive speakers, we made a B-line to the bus. There, we got comfortable again and watched the movie Footloose. In Manassas, we stopped at Hard Times cafe. There, we had an awesome time and got some delicious dinner. Then, we went back to our seats on the bus. Some spent the ride back to UVA doing their reading, and others enjoyed sleeping or watching The Conspirator. Now, we are safely back in our dorms and excited about the day to come!

Look below for more pictures from our day:

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Featured Alumni

  • Chuck Smith.jpg

    Chuck Smith

    Political Leaders Program

    Class of 2005

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