Reported by: Avery Warmack (Woodberry Forest School) & Parker Watts (James River High School)
Today was the first day of the Sorenson Institute's High School Leaders Program. After meeting Ms. Gilbert and the Youth Program Managers who will be assisting her, we moved into our rooms in Bice Hall from noon to 2 p.m. After the sign-in process was complete, Sean and John, two of our Youth Program Managers, took us on a brief tour of UVA's grounds, including our classroom, the Rotunda, and the Corner (the main shopping district near UVA).
Shortly after our tour of the campus we met in the basement of Bice House for two exercises involving party labels and mission statements. First, Ms. Gilbert gathered us in the Bice lounge and told us to shout out all of the words that came to mind when she wrote political labels like "Democrat", "Republican", and "Libertarian" on large sheets of paper. Next, we created mission statements for the two major political parties based on what we believed was a fair and honest assessment of the parties' goals. These exercises drove home the importance of communication in our polarized political environment.
After this meeting we had a short break and got ready to eat dinner. During dinner, the group enjoyed an intriguing discussion with Ridge Schuyler, the director of the Charlottesville Works Initiative, a program focused on providing jobs to those in need. During our talk, the group learned about the nuances of criminal law, the difficult balance politicians must find between representing their constituents and following their own moral beliefs. With these topics in mind, we participated in a brief Q&A session in which we got an inside look at what it's like to work in Washington, talk to constituents, and make government policy.
After dinner, we enjoyed time back in our dorms, getting to know our roommates during a surprise ice cream social. Our first day was promising, and we are all looking forward to everything Sorensen has to offer.