Reported by: Fyzah Islam, Charles J. Colgan Sr. High School, and Reagan Lawson, Patrick County High School
On July 7th, 31 students – a mix of NOVA and, for lack of better term, ROVA students, came
together with the intention to better themselves politically, get college credits, rediscover
Virginia politics, to network, and so much more. Within 15 days, these students became closer
than they initially perceived. Today was the graduation ceremony of the 2018 Sorensen Institutes
High School Leadership Program; at least that was the official name. Today’s graduation
ceremony represented the truth that was in the back of our minds for the entire time; we will
probably never see one another again. And to some extent, that is a true statement –all 31 will
never be in one room together again. Still, it is also true that the memories we gained surpass all
the networking we did.
Sitting in class trying not to doze off after lunch, or sitting during lunch asserting how large of a
potato we got, laughing out of shock as we asked outright for a job, side-eyeing all the NOVA
kids, or the side conversations we had during each five-minute break; highlighted our classes.
Figuring out how to get from one island to another while singing and using only three planks of
wood, determining whether or not to let the cow suck our fingers, wondering why we were
touring a college in business casual, listening to live speeches from various political parties at the
steps of the Virginia Capitol; made our field trips. Trying to figure out whether or not to go to the
corner or to go to the downtown mall, sitting in on family meetings in 201, finalizing what movie
to watch, whose HDMI cord to use; made our nights.
We spent the last fifteen days asserting our place at the University of Virginia as leaders. Some
declared leadership by becoming the mother of the group, some by directed vines, and some by
deciding that 202 would become the place where we would open a spa. More importantly, our
classes and our nights were spent making memories out of lessons that would guide us. Pooja
said today that we were the best versions of ourselves at Sorensen and we needed to take that
version of ourselves home. And as right as she is, Pooja forgot the one lesson our mothers tell us
about each school year, and the lesson scripture teaches too; the company we keep influences us.
The company we were in, made it impossible for us not to be the best version of ourselves, we
were, instead are, all individuals who strive to perfect democracy and more so, attempt to
become the best politician we can be. Reagan and I were told to summarize the day's events. Can
we summarize the tears that we kept from flowing; tears that showcase the magnitude of love we
have for each other, I doubt it.
Dear Sorensen High School Leaders Program class of 2018, I love each and every one of you
and will miss you all. Like Lauren Gilbert said in her closing, in not as many words, the world
around us is partisan and to keep seeing the world beyond left, right; Democrat, Republican;
moderate, conservative, liberal; will be hard. But I think if we keep talking about the ‘Take
Aways’ then our class shouldn’t go back to partisanism. July 21st, 2018 represents a beginning, a
beginning of being Sorensen alumnae, seeing and understanding the complexity of the budget,
and the beginning of knowing that thirty people behind us can give a better hand than any other
Unlike our peers, we now have an insight into Virginia politics and how a polarized party system
is tearing us apart. We owe it to our political careers and the future of the Commonwealth to start
a conversation attesting to how the party system is just a nominal division. So, here’s to heated
policy debates, budget making, persuasive whips, family meetings, spa nights, vine recreations,
finger-sucking cows, breakfast from Bodo’s, and to staying connected.