On March 14, 750 Portland Public Schools students got a trip to Seattle to see the wildly popular musical that many have tried in vain to get tickets to: Hamilton.
The national Hamilton Education Program organized the Seattle matinee performance with funding from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Rockerfeller Foundation. Tickets were made available at a deep discount to Portland 10th and 11th grade U.S. history students.
The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation also contributed $75,000 to cover substitute teacher fees, transportation and food for students.
"Hamilton is an extraordinary experience," said Jordan Schnitzer, CARE Foundation president. "My mother, Arlene, and I are delighted to sponsor the program. This experience helps all of us learn our country's history in such an entertaining and thought-provoking way."
PPS made tickets available to students from Benson, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Roosevelt and Alliance high schools. Those schools were prioritized, PPS said in a statement, because they are a few of Portland's historically underserved classrooms.
"This unique opportunity for our students opens the walls of our classrooms," said PPS superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero.
As part of the Hamilton Education Program, Portland high schoolers have been following a curriculum around U.S. history that pairs with the show. They were also given the opportunity to come up with their own pieces to perform for the Hamilton cast after the show.
But the trip also created a scheduling conflict.
CARE Foundation program manager Kristen Engfors-Boess says that the trip was planned months before the Parkland, Fla. shooting, but that the coinciding national student walkout presented a dilemma for some students who had tickets.
"PPS was really mindful of giving students the opportunity to speak their truth and also not miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity," she says.
Engfors-Boess says Portland students used the trip to honor the Parkland victims, with 17 students reading the names of the 17 victims and then sitting for a moment of silence.
"After the show, I got an email from a history teacher who took his class," Engfors-Boess says. "He said he was crying, and all his students were crying the whole time."