HSLP 2012: Day 4, Tuesday, July 10
Jul 13 2012 - 10:35am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 4: Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Reported by: Matthew King, Maggie Walker Governor's School for Government and International Studies and Jacob Rich, Mills Godwin High School

Day four of our Sorensen Experience began with another muggy walk to the classroom, where we began with a brief discussion of yesterday’s “takeaways,” which ranged from the importance of developing one’s personal presence to “Red States and Blue States.” We then moved on to small group discussion of last night’s reading, a walk through Virginia’s political history from the Byrd machine to Virginia’s recent support for Obama. These discussions culminated in elaborate presentations. Despite a tight 30-minute planning deadline, it’s safe to say that the entire class excelled. One group provided humorous portraits of past politicians from a super-Southern Harry Byrd, Sr. to a Southwest Virginia-coddling Mark Warner. Soon, we were dismissed for our lunch break. 

Having consumed sandwich-craft from Charlottesville’s Mona Lisa Pasta, we started viewing a Virginian tale: the senatorial campaign of Oliver North, recounted in the documentary A Perfect Candidate. After the high-octane opening focused on the 1994 Virginia Republican Convention, the film somersaulted from the cynical commentary of a Washington Post journalist to the brouhaha of North-inspired crowds to the dueling controversies of North’s Iran-Contra missteps and his opponent Chuck Robb’s cocaine-fueled partying. Come November, Robb eked out a slight victory. The film closed with a disheartening scene: North’s disheveled campaign manager swore to use negative tactics in the future.

Following the film, Bella Blackney introduced the day’s speaker, U.Va. law professor Robert Sayler. Thanks to his years’ experience in analyzing political speech, Sayler expertly pinpointed this presidential election’s rhetorical shortcomings. From Bachmann to Barack, Sayler made good on his promise to be an equal opportunity critic. Ethos, pathos, logos, and delivery – the foundations of Aristotelian rhetoric – grounded the lecture and provided a framework for grading candidates’ abilities. Sayler then segued into the general election, where he stated that ethos, the issue of character, would define the election. As he reached a thought-provoking crescendo, Sayler posed a question along these lines: “Are the most talented, the most creative, the most industrious really the ones that succeed and rise in American anymore?”

Shortly after returning to our dorms, we were treated to a Mediterranean feast featuring kebabs, pita, falafel, and hummus that, Jacob and I agree, comprised the finest meal we have yet savored at Sorensen. After dinner, some prepared for tomorrow’s field trip to Alexandria and for Thursday’s legislative simulation, while others headed for an evening workout on the grounds of Mr. Jefferson’s University.

Look below for more pictures from our day:


HSLP 2012: Day 3, Monday, July 9
Jul 10 2012 - 3:31pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 3: Monday, July 9, 2012
Reported by: Thomas Courtney, Charlottesville High School and Andrew Brightbill, Princess Ann High School

For the students, the third day of Sorensen started on the night of day two with a total of 48 pages of articles to read along with the full constitution of Virginia, all in preparation for our first day of classes.

On the walk to class our minds, still half asleep, were awakened by the architecture and character of U.Va.'s campus. The trail to class was filled with an array of Corinthian columns and distinctive marks of the university's campus; such as the amphitheater and entirely brick walkways. Upon arrival to our new home, the classroom, our class was greeted by the Youth Program Director, Lauren Gilbert, who asked us to arrange ourselves by birth month, in order to put into practice one of the ground rules of the high school leaders program: sit with someone new. 

The classroom was not only full of more architecture which would make Thomas Jefferson proud but was overflowing with philosophical conversations regarding the importance, or lack there of, of defining yourself as “red” or “blue”. In class Professor Johnson had us investigate voting tendencies in Virginia until the class decided that although Virginia is historically a red state, recent evidence such as the 2008 election of President Obama, indicates that the commonwealth is slowly becoming more of a mixture, a “purple state".

Our analysis of Virginia's demographics was put to use later when we were asked to list five successes and failures of the different regions in Virginia. The class as a whole agreed that the commonwealth's dedication to the preservation of history along with a dedication to higher learning were hug successes, however, as a whole the state could improve upon public transportation and more financial support for the public school systems. After we finalized our list of Virginia's biggest problems, Lauren informed us that finding solutions to these problems would be our final project, a bill which will be presented to a board of Virginia politicians and policy makers. Creating solutions to a state's major issues is a huge undertaking, but it is one I feel the students of Sorensen's High School Leaders Program are more than prepared to handle.

After a tiring first day of classes the students are heading out to the Corner for a little relaxation before beginning another late night of reading.

Look below for more pictures from our day:

HSLP 2012: Day 2, Sunday, July 8
Jul 9 2012 - 4:09pm

High School Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 2: Sunday, July 8, 2012
Reported by: Ryan LaMura, Benedictine College Preparatory

The march from the dorms to the ropes course early this morning can only be described in one word: scorching. However, the heat of the day could not break the spirits of each young leader. We were warmly welcomed by the ropes staff and preceded to the course.

Once there and firmly strapped in, each student attempted to scale a rickety pole and claim a small victory. Although many were initially afraid, each and every student managed to overcome any fear they may have had and were able to complete the course. 

As the day wore on, and the heat continued to increase, we were moved inside to what was considered by many as the best part of the day. We were once again split into two rival groups and went through various team building activities. One activity that truly stood out dealt with the removal of radioactive material from a containment zone. When I say radioactive material I mean tennis balls in a can, and when I say containment zone I’m referring to the large rope surrounding said can. To make this task even more difficult, nine out of the ten students were blindfolded and had to accept instructions from the one lucky individual who had the gift of sight. We were able to successfully navigate through each obstacle with great leadership and teamwork.

To test the various skills we had just learned we challenged our rival group to a game of “tank”. This wondrous game involved blindfolding a partner and leading them to “ammo”, once again tennis balls, and then helping them find an opposing team member. The team with the last one standing won. Although this was a crazy activity, the message of teamwork and communication seemed to be made clear to each young leader.

To finish off the night, all of the students gathered in room 202 for a dinner surprise. The mystery meal of the day was a Mexican feast which was welcomed by all. Although today was only the first day, it is clear that bonds have already been formed between the program members, students and staff included.
Look below for more pictures from our day:

HSLP 2012: Day 1, Saturday, July 7
Jul 9 2012 - 11:41am

High School Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 1: Saturday, July 7, 2012
Reported by: Bri Barbachem, Princess Anne High School and Jack Minchew, Tuscarora High School

At noon the journey for us hopeful young students at the Sorensen Institute began. The excitement in the air was palpable as we arrived in our rooms and began unloading our bags of clothes, shoes and plenty of food. It was an eventful day as we toured UVA in the heat of summer and met the students we would be spending two weeks with at the institute.  

We played a game of bingo where we learned interesting facts about the lives of our fellow classmates and YPMs (Youth Program Managers). For our first activity, we brainstormed about words that we associate with certain political parties. This further impressed upon us the need to keep our party affiliations to ourselves while at Sorensen.

As the day went on we had a lot of fun learning insights into the world of professional journalism from Sorensen Director Bob Gibson. We also discussed the difference between community and service and civic engagements, how the two can vary and yet be similar and how selflessness is a main drive when engaging in either of these activities. As the day came to a close, we all met up in one of the dorms for an ice cream social; listening to music, enjoying our desert and calming down after our long day of studies and travel.

Our first day at Sorensen was a success. We finished the day hanging out with each other, making new friends and discussing the various things that drove us to politics, (without disclosing party affiliation of course!) We still have a whole two weeks of this excitement left and at this rate the students could not be more excited about that.


Look below for some more pictures from our day!



Congratulations CLP Class of 2012
Jun 29 2012 - 5:05pm

Congratulations to the members of the College Leaders Program Class of 2012, who graduated this past weekend! You can meet Sorensen's newest alumni on the class's alumni page.

Sorensen Announces Emerging Leaders Program Class
Jun 28 2012 - 6:10pm

The Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) is Sorensen's new leadership development program for young Virginia residents who have a background in state government and are interested in becoming more active in public policy 

We are delighted to announce the names of those Virginians who have been accepted into the inaugural class of the Emerging Leaders Program.

Emerging Leaders Program Class 2012
Amanda Armstrong; Alexandria
John Bolecek; Richmond
Jessica Brooks; Richmond
Chad Cole; Richmond
Anne-Cabrie Forsythe; Henrico
Caroline Gibson; Richmond
James Hoffman; Richmond
Joseph Hoyle; Richmond
CeJae Johnson; Prince George
Ida Jones; Richmond
Julia Kim; McLean
Jenna Klym; Arlington
Annie Morris; Richmond
Christy Morton; Glenns
Generra Peck; Richmond
Emily Rabbitt; Richmond
Erin Rice; Suffolk
Megan Samford; Richmond
Dan Sanford; Springfield
Brandon Schall; Fairfax Station
Brittany Tyler; Richmond
Mary Wagoner; Arlington

JOB POSTING: Receptionist, McGuireWoods Consulting, Richmond
Jun 27 2012 - 3:35pm

Position: Receptionist
Organization: McGuireWoods Consulting, Richmond Office
Contact: See posting to apply online.

McGuireWoods Consulting is looking for an entry-level receptionist who can help with research and assist in supporting their portal page as it comes on line. This is a great opportunity for someone just out of school with an interest in government and public policy.

The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership is nondiscriminatory and nonpartisan. The organization does not participate in campaigns on behalf of issues, causes or candidates for office, nor does it discriminate on the basis of age, color, disability, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation or veteran status. This Employment and Internship Opportunities post is provided as a service to our alumni and friends.

CLP 2012: Day 25, Thursday, June 21
Jun 21 2012 - 10:51pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 25: Thursday, June 21, 2012
Reported by: Sean Simons, University of Mary Washington

Today was our last official day of class here at the Sorensen Institute’s College Leaders Program. The morning began with Professor Bragaw leading the class in a recap of yesterday’s budget game. After discussing the exercise and the need for more compromise in our politics, the class then talked about some of the typical challenges that arise when making public policy.

After a delicious lunch, the class proceeded to vote on who will speak at graduation and who will serve as our class representative. After a close election, the class chose Brendan Oudekerk to speak at graduation and Claire McNabb to serve as our class representative.

Next, the class heard from Delegate Rob Bell from Albemarle County. Delegate Bell serves on the Health Welfare and Institutions Committee and is the Chairman of the Institutions Subcommittee. Needless to say, many students asked Delegate Bell a lot of questions about the Supreme Court's health care decision and his upcoming race for Attorney General.

Afterward, David Ledbetter, a prosecutor in Charlottesville, came and spoke to us. Following Mr. Ledbetter, the class heard from the Mayor of Charlottesville Satyendra Huja. In addition to being the local mayor, Mr. Huja also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture and teaches classes in Urban Planning. Many of the students were very curious to hear about the challenges of being a city mayor and Mr. Huja’s thoughts on President Sullivan’s firing.

Our last speaker was former delegate Chris Saxman. After retiring from the House of Delegates, Mr. Saxman now works as a business consultant and students asked him a lot of questions about why he decided to leave politics for the private sector. Mr. Saxman also gave each of the three policy groups constructive feedback about our presentations tomorrow.

After a long day of class and lectures, students returned to the dorm for a long night of mock presentations and last minute proposal edits. Tomorrow, students will go in front of a panel of journalists and legislators who will pick apart our ideas and discuss the potential challenges that come with implementing legislation. 

CLP 2012: Day 23, Tuesday, June 19
Jun 19 2012 - 10:17pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 23: Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Reported by: Meghan Hobbs, University of Mary Washington

For our final trip in the program, we went to Richmond to talk with various political leaders in the Capitol. We began our morning with a personal tour of the House and Senate Chambers. This experience was especially interesting for me because I had never been to the Capitol building. We were able to sit in the chairs on both the House and Senate floors as we listened to the historian’s account of what happens during session.

After our quick tour, we went to hear from our great lineup of speakers. First, Tucker Martin, Director of Communications for Gov. McDonnell, described his job of focusing the Governor’s message and translating it to the various media outlets in the state. Our next speaker was Secretary of the Commonwealth Janet Kelly. She went through her responsibilities in this position, and encouraged us to be involved in any kind of campaign. She would not be where she is today without the knowledge she learned on the campaign trail. Next was Generra Peck, the Special Assistant for Policy, and her colleague Andrew. We asked these policy experts about our culminating projects. They offered each group some great advice about how the Senate and House will most likely react to our propositions.

Next we had a working lunch with Sorensen Chairman John Hager who has many years of experience in politics ranging from Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia to Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. His advice on political activism, as well as his devotion to respect and bipartisan cooperation, was well received.

CLP 2012: Day 22, Monday, June 18
Jun 18 2012 - 10:54pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2012
Day 22: Monday, June 18, 2012
Reported by: Colin Christensen, Emory and Henry College

Today the 2012 Sorensen CLP class enjoyed an exciting day that none of us will likely ever forget thanks to the Washington Post, the New York Times, the NBC Nightly News, and of course, The Good Ole Song.

To put it candidly, the we will not remember what we discussed in class today. We will not remember the readings. However, we will remember today’s lesson – a lesson taught not in the classroom, but on the steps of the Rotunda.

Today we stood with 2,000 others on the historic U.Va. Lawn to protest the Board of Visitor’s decision to force the early resignation of U.Va. president Teresa Sullivan. I don’t think any of us truly planned to be active participants in the rally. However, we arrived to the rally about 45 minutes early and decided to sit on the steps of the Rotunda in order to pass time. As the Lawn began to swell with protestors, the result was the 2012 CLP standing at the forefront of all of the action.

Although the members of the 2012 CLP represent schools from all across the Commonwealth, we quickly became de facto U.Va. students. We led the crowd in chanting “U-V-A, U-V-A!” as President Sullivan made her way into the Board of Visitors meeting. Upon President Sullivan’s departure, we joined arms with other students to serenade her with U.Va.’s Good Ole Song.

Our actions on the Lawn today will never be forgotten for several reasons. First, because we chose to congregate on the steps of the Rotunda, our picture was published on the front page of the Washington Post and the New York Times, and we were featured on NBC Nightly News. The second reason can be defined by transparency. The actions taken by the Board of Visitors were the antithesis of transparency. Although we are not U.Va. students, through Sorensen we have learned the value of effective communication and bipartisanship – qualities that are best effectuated through transparency from both sides of the aisle. Certainly, today’s events demonstrated the value of transparency within decision-making bodies. This will be a lesson will we surely never forget.


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