“I’m young, scrappy, and hungry, and I’m not throwing away my shot.” These are the words Alexander Hamilton sings in the third song of the musical Hamilton. It’s a chorus that surely resonated with nearly 200 Patrick Henry students when they had their own shot at seeing the award-winning musical free of cost, as a part of the Hamilton Education Program (HEP) in Minneapolis on September 27.
One Henry sophomore, Naje Wright, had the opportunity to take the Hamilton stage with her very own performance piece.
All students who participated in the program were required to create a performance-based reflection on a topic related to the history and issues addressed in the musical, following
guidelines provided by curriculum creators, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
Each school attending chose one performance for consideration by Gilder Lehrman, and then
Gilder selected about a dozen performances for the day. Naje Wright — Henry 10th grader,
spoken word artist, aspiring marine biologist and engineer — said she didn’t know much about
the musical before this opportunity presented itself, but wasted no time researching Alexander
Hamilton and his story for her piece, Hit or Miss.
Hit or Miss
By Naje Wright
My mother was upset with the man that brought a singular son then the sun set upon the dark so she left and found another one. I was born of abandonment and chance. Chance of dead end lovers all she got was loneliness as a romance.
I was left alone as I see my birth giver under Earth’s skin. Orphaned yet I belong to problems that can only begin. Being penniless didn’t overcome my pride prayers couldn’t answer my future the only thing I had left committed suicide.
How could an accounting clerk get the perks of the works of the storm. Being corrected by death as water is its uniform. The day that lives ended mines only began, coming from rags to riches just to be George’s right hand.
Such a journey to get to America, King George is kinda hysterical. Getting here as who I am and how I was is just a miracle.
Writing love letters something she couldn’t handle, she’s the spark to my fire and she’s the light to my candle. Yet I killed love by making her struggle for breath, but I still loved Elizabeth. I could’ve been the vandal to my title by encouraging the devious scandal. I have so much love I could give, without my Lizzy, there’s no purpose to live. I told her farewell now the tears are coming again. I made mistakes, but I stayed on track, to just look in her eyes and see them looking back. Love you forever plus one more day I described in the letters yet my actions got in the way.
I’ve been talking so much love I didn’t even realize I was stepping, coming from nothing to something is a blessing. The next step I take could be my last yet all my thoughts were about my confusing past. I could kill and his problems would end if I kill my problems would only begin.
BANG!!!! My heart stops may never start again, I saw the devil it was just me and him. He never cracked a smile, but I seen him grin. After everything I did never thought it would end like this. Shot in the air it was a hit or miss. If it’s the truth that kills me let it be done; may my actions teach everyone. The light is coming upon me Darkness gave me a kiss. I made my choice: Fate didn’t want me to hit so I had to miss.
Using spoken word poetry and movement, Naje Wright illuminated the last 12 steps of Hamilton’s life during his fateful duel with Aaron Burr. She took the stage — the very same stage that would be graced by the stars of Hamilton just hours later — and performed the piece for thousands of her peers. And she brought down the house.
“I lived today,” Wright said, reflecting on the experience, “I got my life today.”
In addition to the student-centric performances, attendees had an opportunity to participate in a question and answer session with members of the Hamilton cast and production team.
HEP landed in Minneapolis in large part due to efforts by local nonprofit Project SUCCESS, who secured the funding for the entire experience. The 24-year-old organization partners with 19 Minneapolis public schools to serve more than 14,000 students, including Henry. For high schoolers, they provide in-class workshops about goal setting and future planning; access to professional theater and arts opportunities; expeditions to tour colleges and participate in global learning opportunities; and a new Institute focused on innovation and professional skills.
HEP in Minnesota was coordinated by Project SUCCESS in partnership with Hamilton
producers, the Miranda Family, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the
Rockefeller Foundation. Local Hamilton programming and access to performances through
Hennepin Theatre Trust were made possible by major grants from Aroha Philanthropies, Target,
the Minnesota Vikings and the Wilf Family Foundations. Project SUCCESS worked with its
partner schools to support every Project SUCCESS student who is eligible to attend by
sponsoring their ticket, lunch, and transportation to the production with support from HEP
“I have the greatest respect for everyone that’s involved in this program,” said Henry teacher Patrick Pelini.
This article was written by Amy Stubblefield Bartel, Tom Murray and Susan Breedlove