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TF South students chosen to perform for Hamilton cast

Luis Herrera and Skylar Gertonson’s class project selected as part of the Hamilton Education Program

by Melanie Jongsma

TF South students chosen
Hamilton Company, Chicago (Photo: Joan Marcus)
CHICAGO, Ill. (October 16, 2017) — TF South juniors Luis Herrera and Skylar Gertonson will be missing school on Wednesday, along with 20 other members of their AP US History class, students in two other history classes, and three teachers, including AP US History teacher Matthew Tiffy. The entire group of 66 history-lovers will be boarding buses and heading to Chicago that day as part of the Hamilton Education Program, an opportunity made possible by the generosity and commitment of producers of the Broadway show Hamilton, The Rockefeller Foundation, the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History, and organizations and individuals across the country.

Learning the story

TF South will be one of 27 area high schools participating in the Hamilton experience on Wednesday. The participating schools have spent the past several weeks studying American history in their classrooms, using a special integrated curriculum about Alexander Hamilton provided by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. As an “extra credit” option, students were encouraged to do further research into the Hamilton story, and create an original two-minute rap, play, monologue or song referencing primary events and key documents from that era. Herrera and Gertonson chose to represent George Washington and Alexander Hamilton at Valley Forge.

Students in all three of TF South’s participating classes submitted projects. In all three classes, the students had to peform their projects, and their classmates voted on the best one of the class. Teachers Doug Smith, Julie Kelly, and Tiffy then selected the best performance from the three possible choices.

Great performances

“There were several great performances,” said Tiffy. “To be honest, any number of them could have been used. However, I think the scope that Skylar and Luis used in the presentation and the emotion that they used in their project helped them to win. Luis also wrote all of the background music, which took him about 23 hours to do.”

Tiffy continued, “After listening to the soundtrack, I also thought that their performance could have actually been put right into the play itself!”

Tiffy submitted a YouTube video of Herrera and Gertonson’s performance to the Gilder Lehrman Institute. He received an email that Herrera and Gertonson had been selected to perform their entry live on October 18 in front of their peers as well as the Chicago cast of Hamilton. Students representing various other schools will also perform.

“It’s very exciting to see what students can do,” said Tiffy. “Both Luis and Skylar have been working very hard, and I’m excited for them to perform.”

Supporting interactive education

As part of the program, Hamilton producers make tickets available for $70, $60 of which is subsidized by funders, making the cost per student $10, or “a Hamilton.” TF South Principal Jake Gourley covered that cost for TF South students.

The schedule for Wednesday’s Hamilton Education Program participants includes:

  • 10:15am—Introduction, student performances, Q&A with Hamilton cast onstage
  • 11:30am—Lunch break, with student interview opportunities available at the Palmer House
  • 1:00pm—Return from lunch; theater doors open
  • 1:30pm—Hamilton performance begins

Dr. Rajiv Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation, said, “After the initial success of the partnership in New York City, we could not throw away our shot to ensure students across the United States had the opportunity to witness living breathing history. We look forward to seeing the creativity and engagement this program continues to spur.”

Other participants

The October 18 performance is the first of the 2017/2018 school year. Schools participating that day include:

  1. Acero Schools – Cruz High School
  2. Addison Trail High School
  3. Alan B. Shepard High School
  4. Argo Community High School
  5. Bloom High School
  6. Bloom Trail High School
  7. Chicago Math and Science Academy Charter School
  8. Christ The King Jesuit College Prep
  9. CICS Ralph Ellison
  10. Donald E. Gavit Jr./Sr. High School
  11. East Leyden High School
  12. Elmwood Park High School
  13. Evanston Township High School
  14. Hammond High School
  15. Hoffman Estates High School
  16. Intrinsic Charter School
  17. J. Sterling Morton East High School
  18. J. Sterling Morton West High School
  19. Noble – Golder College Prep
  20. Noble – Rauner College Prep
  21. North Lawndale College Prep – Collins Campus
  22. Perspectives – Leadership Academy
  23. Proviso East High School
  24. Proviso West High School
  25. Thornton Fractional South High School
  26. University of Chicago – Woodlawn
  27. Willowbrook High School

The five-year Hamilton Education Program is designed to provide 250,000 students in Title I high schools with a unique educational and theatrical experience. It is one of several history education programs at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. President James G. Basker devised the education program in New York in tandem with Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, producer Jeffrey Seller, The Rockefeller Foundation, and the NYC Department of Education.

TF South is located at 18500 Burnham Avenue in Lansing, Illinois. For more information, call 708-585-2000.


With book, music, and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, direction by Thomas Kail, choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, and musical direction and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire, Hamilton is based on Ron Chernow’s biography. Winner of 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Hamilton is the story of America’s Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War, and was the nation’s first Treasury Secretary. Hamilton‘s score blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B, and Broadway—the story of America then, told by America now. For more information, visit


The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is a nonprofit organization devoted to the teaching and learning of American history. To provide resources and programs for educators and students, the Institute draws on top scholars, an unparalleled collection of original historical documents, and a network of more than 11,000 Affiliate Schools across the country. As a leading provider of K-12 programs, the Institute supports tens of thousands of teachers and millions of students in elementary and secondary schools in all 50 states and 39 foreign countries. For more information, visit

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Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma grew up in Lansing, Illinois, and believes The Lansing Journal has an important role to play in building community through trustworthy information.