Reported by Ava Liberty (McLean High School)
We started our morning around 9:40 with a long uphilll hike to the Rotunda. Today was the big day! We were on our way to present our policy projects, for which we had spent long hours into the night doing detailed research, calling legislators and rehearsing our presentations. We walked into the dome room and were all filled with awe at the beautiful room at the top of the Rotunda, filled with floor to ceiling bookshelves and decorative columns, which are very distinguishable on UVA’s gorgeous campus, which we have been lucky to call home for the past two weeks.
Ms. Gilbert then proceeded to introduce the class to the panel that would be listening to our policy proposals. We recognized some friendly faces among the group; including Ms. Gilbert, Marc Johnson, and Tom Walls. Chris West, who is the Director of Policy and Communications for Speaker Howell, and Thomas Cross who is a legislative aide to Senator T. Montgomery Mason, also sat on the panel. Then we proceeded to present our policy proposals, beginning with Education, followed by Environment, Governmental Policy and, last but not least, Public Health. We all received very important and useful advice from the panel to help each group in their pursuits to turn our proposals into legislation.
After that, we headed down to the classroom and were treated to Chick-fil-A for lunch. Ms. Gilbert discussed what it meant to be Sorensen alumni and we reflected on our time here. We held an election for Class President (won by Claire Melton) and Class Speaker (won by Matt Nalls). We were all very inspired and touched by the plethora of John F. Kennedy quotes and emotional speeches in the race for speaker. For the rest of the class period, we debriefed about our thoughts on the program and the main things we have learned in the HSLP with Tom Walls. We discussed what it means to be a committed leader, and reflected on our own ethical dilemmas in our daily lives.
We then walked back to Bice and prepared for dinner at Cafe Caturra. We all reminisced on our fondest memories from these past two weeks in Charlottesville and shared many laughs over the class superlatives, which included “most likely to ask questions of the YPMs” and “most likely to get involved in a political scandal”.
It is bittersweet to realize that we have finished our journey here at the Sorensen HSLP. These past two weeks have been incredible; I have loved meeting and talking with every single student here and will forever cherish the friendships I have made. It feels as though I arrived at Bice only yesterday, and yet I also feel as though I have known everyone for years. I have treasured every moment of this program, even if it entailed staying up until midnight, working with my policy group and perfecting our project. I will never forget the important ethical lessons and political advice that I have learned, and will hold these moments close to me for years to come. The most important quote that encompasses what we have learned here at Sorensen comes from Thomas Jefferson; “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend”. It IS possible to have friends on both sides of the aisle and I hope this fact resonates with my peers for years to come. Thank you to everyone in my class, the speakers and staff for this once in a lifetime experience.