Reported by: Richard Robles (Potomac Falls High School) & Priya Tran (Keystone National High School)
We started off the day discussing by our culminating group projects. Each group deals with one of four broad topics: mental health, environmental issues, education reform, and criminal justice reform. Since being assigned to our groups, we have been working to refine these topics into specific policy proposals. After peer-editing other groups' proposals during focus group meetings, we pitched rough drafts of our culminating group projects to John, who offered us feedback and suggestions.
Two hours had passed since we started, and our speaker for the day, Brian Cannon, had arrived. Mr. Cannon is the executive director of OneVirginia2021, an anti-gerrymandering organization. Mr. Cannon showed us gerrymandered district maps designed to benefit Virginia's Democratic Senators and Republican Delegates simultaneously. After an hour of in-depth discussion on redistricting issues, the HSLP class paused to grab lunch before resuming discussion with Mr. Cannon.
At 1 p.m., after Mr. Cannon’s departure, the HSLP class had some time to work on their assignments, ranging from our culminating projects and our senate bills. Next, Mr. Johnson arrived and we were assigned articles regarding Virginia's historical constitutions and the three branches of government. After that, we had the chance to try our own hands at perfecting the Virginia Constitution in a mock convention. The activity helped us to appreciate the longtime traditions of Virginia ingrained into its constitution. Next, we dove into the structure of Virginia’s government, from the executive to the legislative and the judicial. We broke down the different roles and positions in each of the branches and learned the basic functions of Virginia’s government.
After class, we refocused on our policy projects, fine-tuning them according to the feedback we had received from our peers. Having now made it through a third of the program, we’re excited for what else is in store.