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Lafayette High School students to see “Hamilton” in St. Louis

Forty students from Lafayette High School will be traveling to St. Louis this week to see a live performance of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.”

The trip is part of the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History’s Hamilton Education Program, which provides classrooms with coursework and primary sources to use in lessons about the Founding Father, and selects groups to participate in workshops across the country.

Marisa Atkinson, whose English II class has studied Hamilton, the person and the musical, all semester, said the curriculum was a great way to teach her students about real events and applying literary devices in real life.

“From an English teacher perspective, I took some of the songs that appear in the show that Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote, and we looked at it through a literary lens and identified the literary devices, rhetorical devices, all that good stuff,” Atkinson said. “We also looked at some historical documents, like the letters Alexander Hamilton wrote to Eliza Hamilton and the Federalist Papers, just to expose them to real historical things and show them how they were written.”

LHS is one of about 20 school groups from around the country who will spend two days in St. Louis for the program, and the only school from Mississippi.

While in St. Louis, the group will get to go sightseeing at the Gateway Arch before taking a behind-the-scenes tour of Busch Stadium, home of the Cardinals baseball team.

On Wednesday, the students will begin their day with a question and answer session with “Hamilton” performers, then watch their peers perform original raps based on historical figures.

That evening, the group will get to see an exclusive performance of the musical for the low ticket price of $10. Tickets for Hamilton have been sold for thousands of dollars, so this low price is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Atkinson said.

One student who said she’s excited for the trip is Alexis Thompson. Thompson, a sophomore, said she is looking forward to the chance to ask the cast members questions, especially if “Hamilton” writer and former star Lin-Manuel Miranda makes a surprise appearance.

“I’ve never done anything like this before, and think it’s a cool opportunity to see what we’ve been learning instead of just reading it,” Thompson said. “I think it connects the students better. It draws their attention and makes them want to learn more.

In addition to learning about the songs from the musical and reading historical documents, the students also immersed themselves in their lessons by participating in rap battles between different historical figures.

Jakyland Jones, sophomore, rapped as Alexander Hamilton, and defeated Aaron Burr, Hamilton’s sworn enemy. Jones said the project helped him get involved in class and made him more excited about the play.

“When I first heard the songs, I made a connection with them,” Jones said. “I was nervous to go up there, but when I was rapping my parts, I enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to actually listening to the songs and watching the musical, instead of watching on Youtube.”

Jones said his favorite songs from the musical are “My Shot” and the Cabinet Battle scene. Miranda wrote “Hamilton” as a modern interpretation of historical events. Many of the songs from the musical are written in a style that would not be out-of-place on today’s radio stations.

Having a cast that is a modern reflection of America is something Atkinson said she hopes will inspire her students to chase their dreams.

“The is the story of America, told by America today,” Atkinson said. “I’m a big fan of travel, and letting them go and see what they’ve learned and studied. Since we are in a more rural community, I think it’s a great opportunity for students to see what’s out there.”

For more information about the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History’s Hamilton Education Program, visit https://www.gilderlehrman.org/content/hamilton-education-program.