On Wednesday, February 15th, 2017, one hundred eleventh grade students in the Academy for Fine Arts and Academics (AfA2) at Bayonne High School were treated to an immersive full day experience at the Richard Rodgers Theater – home of the record-breaking, smash-hit musical Hamilton – in New York City. Thanks to the efforts of AfA2 teachers Lori Alexander and Jessica Mintz, Bayonne High School was selected as a recipient of the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History and Rockefeller Foundation Hamilton Education Grant Program.
Through the Hamilton Education Grant Program, selected eleventh grade high school students and their teachers receive a rich, interdisciplinary curriculum that connects the Founding Era to the performance art of Hamilton. Funding from the grant provides schools with tickets for the musical Hamilton for the incredible price of $10 per ticket!
Interdisciplinary Learning Activities in Preparation for the Trip:
Through the Hamilton Education Grant Program, high school students have the opportunity to participate in a rich, interdisciplinary learning experience that culminates in the creation of an original performance piece inspired by the Founding Era. History teachers James Murphy, Keri Toomey, Neil Carroll and Jessica Mintz worked with Musical Theater teacher Lori Alexander to present a three day lesson using curriculum and materials provided by the Gilder Lehrman Institute. Students explored the Founding Era in depth, using primary source documents to research Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and additional founding fathers, as well as other important historical figures like Elizabeth Schuyler, King George III, John Lawrence, and Aaron Burr. Students then worked individually or in pairs to write original performance pieces, including poems, raps, monologues, and dramatic scenes.
One student piece was selected to be shared with the Gilder Lehrman Institute as a representation of the student’s hard work. This piece was written and performed by Abigail Isaac and Kermena Abdallah, and is a poem about the life of Elizabeth Schuyler, the wife of Alexander Hamilton. Abigail and Kermena were chosen to perform their original piece on stage at the Richard Rodgers Theater for over 1,500 students and staff from all participating schools! The girls were treated to backstage entrance to the theater through the Stage Door, and a personal meeting with cast & crew members of Hamilton!
An excerpt from the original poem by Abigail and Kermena reads:
“Elizabeth Schuyler, in 1780, became a wife
However, when in 1804 she was bereft of her husband, she began a new life
From her father’s house she had learned to believe,
That through being a woman of fortitude, anything she could achieve
And in regarding this as true, she would succeed until her last day.
Elizabeth Schuyler, in 1780, became a wife
In the eve of her life, taking Alexander’s advice
She served God above all
Becoming an “object” of “veneration” for all who would recall
Her loyalty and her truth that persisted until her death on a Thursday.”
Written and performed by Abigail Isaac and Kermena Abdallah
The Full Day Experience:
On Wednesday, February 15th, the one hundred students, accompanied by faculty chaperones, traveled to the Richard Rodgers Theater in New York City for a full day experience along with other participating schools from New York City and New Jersey. Following the performances of the selected student pieces, all schools participated in a Q&A session with broadway cast members from Hamilton, in which two questions submitted by Bayonne High School students were selected to be asked to the cast!
Students enjoyed a pizza lunch at the famous John’s Pizzeria in Midtown, where they had the opportunity to meet broadway actor Joey Sorge (currently performing in A Bronx Tale), and Gregory Treco (current cast member of Hamilton), and then returned to the Richard Rodgers Theater to enjoy orchestra-section seating for a matinee performance of Hamilton!
Recognition & Thanks:
The participating Bayonne High School students and chaperones paid for their tickets and lunch costs, however funding for the busses to and from New York City was generously provided by the Bayonne Education Foundation and the Bayonne High School Drama Society Parent’s Association.
Dan Ward, Director of History for the Bayonne Public Schools, said of the experience: “Hamilton was amazing but more importantly the EduHam program transformed some of our students’ lives yesterday – so look out world because the next Lin Manuel Miranda is coming for you and she’s from Bayonne!”
Laura Craig, Supervisor of Special Programs and Coordinator of the Academy for Fine Arts and Academics stated, “This experience would not have been possible without the efforts of teachers Lori Alexander and Jessica Mintz. In addition to completing the grant application for their students, Ms. Alexander and Ms. Mintz oversaw the curriculum, preparations, and details of the grant program and field trip with enthusiasm and expertise, providing our students with a truly once in a lifetime experience that they will never forget”.
To see more pictures and videos from the day, including a video of Abigail and Kermena’s onstage performance, follow @bhsafa2 on Twitter or like The Academy for Fine Arts and Academics at Bayonne High School on Facebook.
Musical Theater Teacher Lori Alexander, 11th Grade AfA2 Students Abigail Isaac and Kermena Abdallah, Honors American History Teacher Jessica Mintz
Students await the start of the show, including Brielle Calianese, John Dugan, and Kacpar Danilowicz.
Abigail Isaac and Kermena Abdalla perform on the broadway stage at the Richard Rodgers Theater
Faculty chaperones (from left) Brendan Wahlers, Kelli McGovern, Lori Alexander, Laura Craig, Jessica Mintz, Kathy Bingham, James Murphy, Neil Carroll, Dan Ward, and Keri Toomey (front).
Supervisor of Special Programs
Coordinator, Academy for Fine Arts and Academics
Bayonne Board of Education