The Hamilton Education Program Gives NYC Students Their Shot

By Khrysgiana Pineda, Theater Editor

History was watching Wednesday morning when New York City students took to Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theater stage to perform in front of the cast of Hamilton.

With the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the NYC Department of Education gave 15,000 New York City students their shot to attend a once in a lifetime event.

 

Followed by twenty-five spellbinding acts, 1,3000 students participated in a Q & A with the cast and attended the 2pm matinee of Broadway’s most celebrated musical, Hamilton. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. Even if we never make it back, I think we’re all really blessed to be here,” Anyissel Hernandez, 15, said.

The experience truly brought history to life.

“I feel like I learned more from this program and through the songs than just reading in a textbook, because now I can connect to the music and the story,” Calley Coleman, 16, said. Prior to the event, students spent several weeks learning about Alexander Hamilton and America’s founding fathers through a special American History curriculum provided to them during classroom time. “It gave us an opportunity to present history in a different way. It’s very exciting to both students and faculty,” Union High School U.S. 1 Honors History teacher Chip Benway said.

Backstage, students were in a frenzy of excitement, nerves and vocal warm-ups as they prepared for their Broadway debut.

“We get to be heard,” Marquese Evans, 16, said, “We get to show our talents to the cast but also to the other schools. I think that’s what’s unique. We are all very different in a big way.”

Students performed acts from Hamilton, adding their unique interpretations that helped make the performance their own, from sparkly pink ugg boots in a rap/dance number, to playing a ukulele in a traditionally classical song. “We’re taking on these historic characters, and each role is unique to us because we have our own stylistic voices,” Tyrese Avery, 16, said.

 

Hamilton, a musical with a predominantly minority cast and whose hero is an immigrant, raises issues still present in America today; oppression, disadvantage and the concept of the legacy we choose to leave with the world. “What we get a chance to do in America is; when things are broken, we can fix them. We’re all fighting to make America better. Being in a cast of people that look like you makes you realize that just because we’re brown doesn’t mean we’re the same. We’re all different. Things like gender and race divide us. We need to start to see each other as individuals,” Brian Clarke, playing George Washington, said.

Who tells your story? An actor, a writer, a painter? Hamilton calls us to question our role in the narrative of the world. Everyone has a part to play, a way to contribute. Through art and expression, New York City youth are ready to rise up and tell their stories, forever altering history.

“Being on a Broadway stage has been my dream,” Riya Nagpal, 16, said. “I fulfilled that today.”

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