This Week in CPS: Celebrating Student Stars at Hamilton!

To celebrate July 4 in style, our hat is off to the Chicago Public Schools high school performers who took part in the Hamilton Education Program (EduHam) back in the spring. Roosevelt High School’s Asha Hasan (pictured above) was one of 15 Chicago Public Schools students who were chosen to perform original two-minute performances based on their study of Hamilton and the early history of the United States. Hasan performed a spoken word piece entitled “Bill of Rights.” (She was also a finalist in the Chicago History Fair for a research project on toxic waste.)

Gage Park High School’s Aris Urbina performed an original monologue as Philip Hamilton, son of Alexander, who was killed in a duel at the age of 19. Urbina’s monologue focused on the challenges faced by a young man wanting to make his own mark in the world despite his famous father. In an interview after his performance, he said, “How was he supposed to live up to his dad? His whole life was focused on this. He probably had so many of his own goals. He’s trying to come out of the shadow of his father.”

The Hamilton Education Project offers students an introduction to the people, events and documents of the founding era of the United States by exploring how the musical brings Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton to life. After studying primary source documents and seeing how they are applied artistically through songs like “The Farmer Refuted,” students create their own performance piece on people or events of the founding era based on primary sources.

In order to attend the show, students submit videos of their performances. A select group of students are chosen to perform their pieces on the Hamilton stage for an audience of their peers, plus Hamilton cast members. “When we started this in New York, from the very first show, Lin-Manuel Miranda and I were just blown away with what these students could do,” says Tim Bailey, director of education for the Gilder Lehman Institute of American History, the educational partner supporting EduHam in New York City and across the country.

Urbina, who enjoys history, documentaries and fashion, said taking part in EduHam spurred him to take his studies to a new level. “When I wrote the piece, I felt like Philip, creating my own future. It gave me motivation. It pushed me to become a straight-A student and become on it in school.” This fall, he’ll be starting his senior year. He is looking into colleges in California and Texas.

Congratulations to Hasan, Urbina, and all the CPS students who seized the opportunity “to be in the room where it happens.”

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Maureen Kelleher

Chicago Unheard blog manager Maureen Kelleher also serves as a senior writer and editor at brightbeam, a nonprofit network of education activists demanding a better education and brighter future for every child. Before joining the brightbeam team, she spent a decade as a reporter, blogger and policy analyst. Her work has been published across the education world, from Education Week to the Center for American Progress. A former high school English teacher, she is also the proud mom of a middle-schooler. Find her on Twitter at @KelleherMaureen.

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