Thousands of Title I high school students from around Arizona had the chance to see a performance of the award-winning "Hamilton: An American Musical" on Feb. 23 at ASU Gammage thanks to the Hamilton Education Program, dubbed EduHam.
The program arranges for Title I high school students nationwide to get a history lesson from the Tony Award winner. Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act identifies schools with high percentages of children from low-income families in order to provide additional financial assistance to local education programs, according to the Department of Education.
In Arizona, after spending multiple weeks in an integrated American history curriculum program about the nation’s Founding Fathers, 2,700 students were invited to ASU Gammage to watch a matinee performance of “Hamilton" last Friday.
Students from 40 high schools in Arizona participated in the event. For many, this was their first musical theater performance, said Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director for ASU Gammage and ASU vice president for cultural affairs.
“ASU Gammage has long brought students to the theater,” Jennings-Roggensack said. “We think it’s very important, and for many students this will be their first experience. Can you imagine your first theater experience being ‘Hamilton'?”
Rodrigo Sevilla, a Maryvale High School junior, said this was the case for him.
“It’s a good experience to have because I’ve never been to a big theater before,” Sevilla said.
Sevilla was one of 20 students chosen to perform on the “Hamilton” set prior to the musical. The students presented various types of performances such as songs, monologues, raps and poetry.
Sevilla decided to take the instrumental of one of his favorite rap songs and replace the lyrics with historical references he learned through the integrated curriculum program.
“I feel excited and special since they chose me from all the people that turned something in,” Sevilla said.
EduHam is one of the many history programs offered by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
Students also had the opportunity to participate in a Q&A session with some of the “Hamilton” cast members before watching the musical.
“It sounds cliche, but they are our future,” Leung said. “It’s so encouraging and inspirational honestly.”
EduHam is unique because it allows students the chance to learn about American history through a more immersive and entertaining program compared to the traditional classroom setting.
“You have to remember that the Founding Fathers, as dusty as they may seem in school, were human beings,” Leung said. "I think what’s really interesting about telling this story is there are themes that are still applicable to us today no matter what the time period is. I think a lot of people can relate to it."