HSLP 2014: Day 5 - Wednesday, July 16
Jul 16 2014 - 11:59pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 5: Wednesday, July 16
Reported by: Rob Brailsford (Patrick Henry High School) and Kathleen Warner (Champions for Christ Home School Cooperative)

Today we Sorensen students took an agricultural policy field trip to the Cub Run Dairy farm. We learned about environmental concerns, the precise living conditions, nutrients and procedures necessary to own a dairy farm. Touring the facilities in which the calves, milking females, and pregnant cows are held, we learned the in depth process from calf to milk. We also toured the facility in which the cows are actually milked. The family that runs the farm was very friendly and informative.

Later we toured downtown Harrisonburg in order to learn about downtown restoration. We learned about economic development in Harrisonburg and realized, it is a lot like our home towns. In addition we also spoke with Councilmen from Harrisonburg and learned the ins-and-outs of the political system of Harrisonburg.

Finally, students ended their field trip with a tour at James Madison University (JMU). Students toured the beautiful campus and learned about the historical history of JMU from former student, Lauren Gilbert. The campus buildings were covered in the local phenomenon, blue stone.

After an informative tour we headed back to our wonderful Bice apartments. Before starting our culminating projects, we had an amazing dinner: barbeque, mac and cheese and corn bread, catered by Harvest Moon. After a laid-back dinner we then split into different groups, based on policy. Most of the night was taken up by brainstorming topics and googling statistics. Luckily, all the groups came up with great policy ideas that everyone agreed on. After that we split up to complete our own reading for class before retiring for the night.

Look for more photos of our day coming soon on the Sorensen Facebook page.

HSLP 2014: Day 4 - Tuesday, July 15
Jul 15 2014 - 11:12pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 4: Tuesday, July 15
Reported by: Brittany Beckwith (Midlothian High School) and Mason Wheeler (Patrick Henry High School and Roanoke Valley Governor’s School)

Today was our second day of class. Class started at 9 a.m. with a summary of yesterday’s class. Then Mr. Johnson split the class into four groups for our lesson about Virginia’s political history. We started with the Byrd machine and ended with the present. Each group had to make a presentation based on the reading that we had done the night before with the information. After the groups were finished we each presented them to the class. Each group was graded on creativity and accuracy and overall style by the rest of class and the group with the most points won a prize.

After the presentations it was lunch time so we got an hour to relax and eat. When we finished we had our guest speakers come. They were agents from State Farm, Jon Hannah and Gary Albert. They talked to us about how the government is involved in insurance and how they work with the government to be successful. We also learned that Gary was in one of the national State Farm commercials that aired during March Madness a few years ago.

The last lesson we talked about was the Virginia Constitution. Mr. Johnson had us talk about it and create a chart of the changes that were made through the years and then we broke into groups and created our own bills. We then had a discussion about the bills and got to vote to keep the bills or get rid of them.

We then came back to Bice for fajitas and a bit of work. 

Look for more photos of our day coming soon on the Sorensen Facebook page.

HSLP 2014: Day 3 - Monday, July 14
Jul 14 2014 - 11:27pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 3: Monday, July 14
Reported by: Jordan Arnold (Rockbridge County High School) and Alex Workman (Fredericksburg Academy)

Today at Sorensen we began our first day of classes. We learned about ethics in politics and how to analyze and classify an ethical dilemma.

Galen Green introduced our professor, Marc Johnson, who will be teaching us for the next two weeks. We discussed our first reading section, which included two articles from the Washington Post about the two party system and the stereotypes that have arisen from an increasingly polarized national political scene. We learned the political diversity of Virginian politics. We also went more in depth about other demographic facts about Virginia, such as graduation rate, average household income, unemployment rates, and population. These facts, supported by census surveys, conducted in various years, illustrated the regional differences across the Commonwealth.

After class, we returned to our rooms, where most of us formed small groups to discuss various sections of the reading assignment for tomorrow.  

Look for more photos of our day coming soon on the Sorensen Facebook page.

HSLP 2014: Day 2 - Sunday, July 13
Jul 13 2014 - 11:17pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 2: Sunday, July 13
Reported by: Katie Zalegowski (The James Monroe High School) and Maddie Albertson (Fredericksburg Academy)

Today was our first full day at Sorensen with each other! All of the Sorensen classmates got to know each other through the ropes course we completed today, Poplar Ridge.

After a 15-minute walk to Poplar Ridge, we first took part in several group activities. The first activity worked on our communication as we were divided into three teams. The first team had to communicate a five-word message to the second team across from them. The third team was in the middle and was doing everything they could do prevent the message from being heard by team two. We were then individually given an animal to make the noise of, and we had to close our eyes while making our animal’s noise. Once we found our animal groups, we played another game in which we were given a “family” trait to act out. We went around and the teams had to guess the other teams different cultural traits. This was meant to show us the extremes of the differences between extroverts and introverts.

The group was then divided in half and completed activities, which taught us all trust, the importance of communication, teamwork, collaboration, cooperation, and accountability. Each and every person acquired self-esteem, which contributed to the success in every single activity. One of the activities we did included everyone putting one of their fingers under a hola hoop, which was gradually lowered to the ground. Another activity involved getting a ball into a bucket without it touching the ground by using broken pipes, which were put one after the other to reach the end. Whether it was swinging across a creek on a rope, balancing a wooden platform, or getting across planks of food using teamwork, everyone was constantly bonding.

We had the opportunity to participate in two high ropes challenges. The first involved climbing a pole and jumping off from the top. The other one involved two people walking across a wire using communication and balance. During these ropes activities, there were belayers who were responsible for lowering the people on the ropes down safety or making sure that they did not fall. Throughout this entire experience we built trust within our Sorensen team and bonded over pushing out of our comfort zones. We cannot wait for the coming weeks because of how well the group is bonding and getting along.

Look for more photos of our day coming soon on the Sorensen Facebook page.

HSLP 2014: Day 1 - Saturday, July 12
Jul 12 2014 - 11:34pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 1: Saturday, July 12
Reported by: Connell Zelazny (James Monroe High School) and Melissa Alberto (Robert E. Lee High School)

Today 28 high school students arrived at Bice House here at the University of Virginia. After checking in with our program leaders we moved into our dorms and met our roommates.

Once we had said goodbye to our families, we embarked on a tour of the U.Va. Grounds led by our Youth Program Managers.

Once we returned from our adventure, we met in the Commons of Bice House to begin our program orientation. During orientation we were formally introduced to our leaders: Lauren Gilbert, Sorensen's Youth Program and Recruitment Director, and Youth Program Managers Caitlin Casassa, John DeVilbiss, and Claire Hathaway. Once we had gone over the rules of Sorensen and our exciting schedule for the next two weeks, we played several word association games involving major political parties and an ice-breaking game of bingo.

Around 6:30 p.m. dinner was served in the Bice Commons, and Mr. Bob Gibson, Executive Director of the Sorensen Institute, spoke to us for over an hour about a variety of political subjects and engaged us in a thought-provoking question and answer session, sharing his extensive political experience and knowledge.

Once we had finished with dinner, we were able to once again venture out into Charlottesville and visit U.Va.'s historic Rotunda.  Later we returned to our dorms to play cards and continue to get to know each other before turning in for bed.

Look for more photos of our day coming soon on the Sorensen Facebook page.

CLP 2014: Day 15 - Saturday, June 28
Jun 28 2014 - 11:47pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 15: Saturday, June 28
Reported by: Nicole Falgiano, James Madison University

Today was the final day of the 2014 College Leaders Program. It was a solemn morning as we packed up to leave the hallowed grounds of the University of Virginia. So many friendships have been forged over the past two weeks and they will continue to grow, long after the program is over.

As we settled in for the graduation festivities, we realized what the past two weeks of Virginia politics and nonpartisan policy work had done to influence us. Tim Coleman was elected to speak on behalf of the class. He reminded us to “be good, do good, and feel good” in every aspect of our lives. He said, “We have not only learned about politics, but also about each other and all parts of the state. Diversity and acceptance has radiated throughout our time here at the CLP.”

Barbara Fried, a long-time friend of the Sorensen Institute, gave a very moving commencement address about the historical roots of the goal of nonpartisanship. She spoke of Jefferson, Washington, and Madison and the nation they all hoped would come out of their dedication to freedom and liberty.

Our classmates, Chris McGrath and Evelyn Clark, were awarded with the Spirit of Citizenship Award for their dedication to creating a better political environment within our class. As Ms. Gilbert gave her closing address, there was not a dry eye amongst the CLP Class of 2014.

Until we meet again…​

Look for more photos of our day coming soon on the Sorensen Facebook page.

CLP 2014: Day 14 - Friday, June 27
Jun 27 2014 - 11:36pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 14: Friday, June 27
Reported by: Ray Roakes, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Evelyn Clark, Roanoke College

Today was our final working day at CLP 2014. We finally had a chance to present our culminating projects. The panel of experts to which we spoke included the head of a Richmond government relations firm, a current state delegate, a member of Sorensen's Charlottesville Regional Board, and Professor Kidd. Our presentations brought much fanfare as we were featured on two local news stations and a student was given the opportunity to speak on a local radio show about the Sorensen Youth Programs.

After we finished our presentation and all let out a huge sigh of relief, we attended our final class session. We discussed the overarching concepts of being an alum of Sorensen and an engaged political citizen, and about some problems that face our generation as we take our own place in the government.

To wrap up the day, and the program, we went out to dinner at Horse and Hound to celebrate our many achievements. Superlatives were handed out, as were beautiful class photos. All and all it was a full day, and a beautiful way to end the College Leaders Program of 2014.

Look for more photos of our day coming soon on the Sorensen Facebook page.

2014 High School Leaders Program
Jun 27 2014 - 3:56pm

Tomorrow, the Sorensen Institute says goodbye to the College Leaders Program Class of 2014 and prepares to welcome the High School Leaders Program class.

The High School Leaders Program is sponsored in part by State Farm and features a Virginia-focused, multidisciplinary curriculum with three main goals:

To prepare future leaders for ethical and responsible citizenship and public service in the Commonwealth; 
To connect Virginia's youth leaders from different backgrounds and philosophies with each other and current public leaders; and
To energize our democratic system of government by promoting civic engagement in youth leaders.
We are looking forward to welcoming 29 young people to Charlottesville on July 12!
CLP 2014: Day 13 - Thursday, June 26
Jun 26 2014 - 11:37pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 13: Thursday, June 26
Reported by: Matthew Shapiro, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Desyre Calloway, Christopher Newport University

On the 13th day of the program we got to participate in a budget simulation. This was a great opportunity for us to get a feel of how the budget process works.

We were divided up into House and Senate committees and then were each given the task of developing our own budgets. After each chamber deliberated on their own budget, conference committees were created to compromise and develop a final budget.

Throughout the process there were several debates on which items needed to be cut to balance the budget. It became quickly clear that our generation does whatever they can to avoid cutting social programs. This is something that may not have been done by our parent’s generation. After both conference committees finished convening it was our job to pick one of two budgets. We ended up selecting budget B, which had a lower surplus and was able to keep more social programs funded.

Overall, this exercise gave us a better understanding of the types of negotiations the General Assembly must go through when balancing the budget. This exercise was also timely because the scenario we were given was very similar to what the actual General Assembly wrestled with a few months back. This is just another educational and fun activity that we have gotten to participate in while in the Sorensen College Leaders Program.

Look for more photos of our day coming soon on the Sorensen Facebook page.

CLP 2014: Day 12 - Wednesday, June 25
Jun 25 2014 - 10:18pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 12: Wednesday, June 25
Reported by: Jack Burden, University of Virginia, and Chance Stone, Old Dominion University

On the 25th day of June in the year of 2014, the students of the Sorensen Institute departed for Richmond, Virginia to hear a variety of speakers from various elements of the state government.

First we arrived in House Room 1 in the state Capitol building to hear two legislative aides for two state delegates. After their presentation, Republican strategist Jeff Ryer talked to us about how to get a political message across to a constituency, which he has been doing for almost two decades. Following Jeff was Levar Stoney, Secretary of The Commonwealth. Stoney was Executive Director of the Democratic Party in Virginia before aiding Gov. McAuliffe in his recent campaign. As a result of that work he was one of the first appointments to the Governor’s cabinet. The fourth speakers of the day were Jeff Britt and Felix Sarfo-Kantanka, who are both lobbyists, one for Gov. McAuliffe and the other for McGuireWoods law firm. The final speaker at the Capitol was John Hager, form Lieutenant Governor of Virginia and current chairman of the Sorensen Institute State Advisory Board.

After we left the Capitol, we headed to the Virginia State Police headquarters and spoke with Superintendent Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, who talked to us about the challenges of running such a large public safety operation. We then split into groups and each participated in the Milo simulator, which trains troopers for crisis situations, as well as received a presentation on the departments K-9 unit.

Look for more photos of our day coming soon on the Sorensen Facebook page.

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Featured Alumni

  • Jen Little.jpg

    Jennifer Little

    Political Leaders Program

    Class of 2007

    In her first campaign as a candidate, Jen was elected to the Mathews County School Board in November 2007. In 2010 she became the school board's Vice Chairman.