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.

CLP 2014: Day 11 - Tuesday, June 24
Jun 24 2014 - 10:48pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 11: Tuesday, June 24
Reported by: Vik Veeramachaneni, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Dani Bernstein, University of Virginia

Today the CLP Program had our last lecture from Dr. Kidd. We discussed hot topics like campaign finance and redistricting, both of which have currently become key factors in Virginia politics.

Following our lecture, we hosted Jean Jensen, who was formerly the Secretary of the State Board of Elections and has long been involved in politics in Virginia. She gave us some some insights into fundraising and how essential it is to a campaign, as well as the longevity of a candidate’s career in public office. She then challenged all the students to prepare and deliver one- to two-minute speeches. We then received valuable feedback and remarks about the quality of our content and delivery from Ms. Jensen and our fellow classmates.

After doing these exercises and speaking with Ms. Jensen, we hosted Cash Arehart, who works for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. He spoke to us about the fundamental debates in our society today. We learned that in his opinion they are the following: Private Wealth vs. Common Wealth, Ethics vs. Law, Unity vs. Diversity, and Freedom vs. Equality.

Later in the afternoon the founder and members of OneVirginia2021 joined us to share and discuss their commitment and mission to help address the gerrymandering in Virginia politics. They highlighted the current district maps and we were able to see how much of a problem and unsolved issue gerrymandering has become. 

As a class we saw some fundamental problems in Virginia politics and realized the challenges and problems we may be tasked to help address in the near future.

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

CLP 2014: Day 10 - Monday, June 23
Jun 23 2014 - 10:28pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 10: Monday, June 23
Reported by: Bennie Ashton, Randolph-Macon College, and Bridget Whan Tong, University of Richmond

Today, our Sorensen class had the pleasure of having three awesome speakers before our lecture this afternoon.

Megan Rhyne, director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, came to talk to the class about the process of requesting information through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process. She identified the friction between journalists and government officials, and noted the changing culture of instantaneous news and transparency. Interestingly, not only do the press and individual citizens request public records, but businesses and firms increasingly seek this information.

Before lunch, we watched Across the Aisle, a movie about the Sorensen Institute’s Political Leaders Program. It was neat to see activities that we’ve already done (or will do this next week) in the context of a program composed of political leaders from Virginia.

Rodney Thomas and Ken Boyd, a former member and member of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors respectively, visited us after the movie. They were passionate about the local nature of politics and the need for civility among politicians. They provided examples of some of the issues they faced in local government and challenged students to think creatively about solutions.

Next, Ross Airington, a health policy analyst for VCU’s Office of Health Innovation, provided some background on the Affordable Care Act before analyzing the intricacies and nuances of the 14,000 page piece of legislation. He discussed the future of Medicaid expansion in Virginia given the passing of the budget and Governor McAuliffe’s line item vetoes.

Finally, we had class with Dr. Kidd, where we discussed the different models of political decision making. We also identified potential concerns and benefits within the relationship between state and municipal governments.

By shedding light on crucial elements of life in the Commonwealth, our speakers were able to provide multiple unique perspectives on the political influences faced within multiple levels of government. From Dillon’s Rule to Disproportionate Share Hospital programs, our speakers made the complexities of Virginia government interesting and applicable to everyday life.

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

CLP 2014: Day 9 - Sunday, June 22
Jun 22 2014 - 10:20pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 9: Sunday, June 22
Reported by: Meredith Gillet, James Madison University and Christian Alcorn, Williams College

For the first time since the program began last Sunday, the class enjoyed sleeping in as well as an 11 a.m. brunch. Afterwards, we headed downtown for an afternoon photo scavenger hunt on Charlottesville's Downtown Mall.

After dividing into three separate teams, each headed by a Youth Program Manager, the scavenger hunt began at 1 p.m. and ran for more than two hours. Aspects of the scavenger hunt included everything from shaking hands with a bearded stranger to drawing a picture on the Freedom of Speech Wall. Some of the parts of the activity included finding landmarks in the area such as the Pavilion while others required video documentation of singing "Wagon Wheel" with a street artist. While the game made the CLP Class of 2014 look a bit peculiar, it proved to be an interesting and unique way of getting to know downtown Charlottesville, as well as each other.

After returning to Bice, the class ate dinner and then went out to the Corner to cheer on the USA Men's National Team in their World Cup match against Portugal. Go USA!!! 

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

CLP 2014: Day 8 - Saturday, June 21
Jun 21 2014 - 6:49pm

College Leaders Program Class of 2014
Day 8: Saturday, June 21
Reported by: Nicole Falgiano, James Madison University and Terrance Harris, Hampden-Sydney College

Today we completed a Senate Simulation. We were assigned different Senators, whom are currently in office in the General Assembly of Virginia. Prior to the simulation, each CLP member was assigned a senator to research and emulate. Additionally, we each wrote two bills to be brought to the Senate for consideration.

At the beginning of the day, we met as a party caucus to elect leadership as well as decide on a party platform and legislative goals. We also discussed legislation and strategy, in order to confirm the voting of our party line. The party in power assigned committee chairs and each party was able to appoint their committee members. Throughout the committee meetings, the bills were discussed and amended. Ultimately, some bills were not able to move out of the committees, while others were able to be brought to the Senate floor.

After another caucus meeting to discuss the amendments, we met in a mock Senate setting. The Senate environment was quite tense, as both parties were very passionate about the bills brought to the floor. Although there were many upsets, we were able to pass many bipartisan bills that would positively influence the citizens of Virginia. After seeking the governor’s approval, we chose to return to the Senate to vote to overturn a few vetoes. At the end of the day, we were able to overturn one veto.

Overall, we learned a lot about parliamentary procedure and were able to get a feel for what it is like to be in the shoes of a Virginia Senator for a day. This experience taught us how easy it was for one to vote simply by party, despite their beliefs. ​ 

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

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Featured Alumni

  • Ann Flandermeyer.jpg

    Ann Flandermeyer Kirwin

    Political Leaders Program

    Class of 2007

    Ann is the co-founder of Principle Advantage, Ltd., a consulting and lobbying firm, specializing in government relations, public affairs and grassroots outreach in Virginia Beach.

    She is the former Director of Legislative Affairs for Delegate Sal Iaquinto and has served as Secretary of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach. Ann also works as a voice-over artist.